At the beginning of this year, I read the first line of Psalm 81 and winced. It said to sing for joy, and I didn’t feel like being joyful. I rarely did. So I resolved to read Psalm 81 every day until its truth transformed my dismal heart.
Nine months later, I’m happy to report that it did!
It’s been a journey—a joy journey—which I blogged about along the way. Looking back, I see two key concepts that made a big difference.
My first breakthrough came when I realized I had a hard time throwing my arms open and trusting God to give me whatever he thought was best. “Open wide your mouth and I will fill it” (Psalm 81:10b). I hadn’t realized how defensive I’d become. After all God had done for me in my life, all the prayers he’d answered and all the times he’d rescued me, why did I still doubt he had good things in store for me?
By wrestling with God about my misplaced misgivings, and opening my heart to trust him a little more each day—“Okay, God, I believe you have good things ahead for me”—my defensiveness was slowly replaced by optimism. Instead of plowing through the day with my gaze on my list, I found myself looking up and dreaming of what God might have for me.
My second breakthrough came after pondering what Psalm 81:1 meant when it said to “Sing for joy to God our strength.” I wanted to live “in God’s strength” but didn’t know how. I discovered the key in the book of John where it says that, like branches to a vine, when we stay connected to Jesus, he produces the fruit of the spirit in us—including peace and joy, and apart from him we can do nothing (John 15:5).
When I took the attitude that I could do nothing on my own, and depended on Jesus to do everything—even brush my teeth—I felt empowered by God’s strength. And I felt his peace and joy.
Those are the two highlights, but Psalm 81 contains so much more. After reading this psalm four or five times a week for nine months, here is what it says to me:
Sing for joy to God, who is my strength.
This is a command—not an option—because God wants his children to be filled with joy.
And why shouldn’t I be?
God says, “I removed the burden of your sins, hurts, and responsibilities from your shoulders.
I set you free from your tasks—let me do the work.
And remember all those times you were in trouble? You called out and I heard you and rescued you.
I am the Lord your God who brought you through all your hard times.
Open wide your mouth and I will fill it with every good thing you need and more.
If you won’t listen and yield to me, I’ll let you stubbornly follow your own devices and schemes.
But if you’ll just listen to me and follow my ways,
How quickly I’ll subdue the enemy of your soul and quench your insecurities and fears.
On top of that, I will feed you with the finest wheat; with honey from the rock I will satisfy you.”
It’s taken me almost a year to grab hold of all these wonderful promises. But how wonderful it is to receive all God offers!
Photos courtesy of Crestock