At first glance, this psalm may not seem about joy. However, as we look closer, the very contrasts make it so. The psalmist is in despair. His reputation is apparently under attack from ungodly people who are spreading lies about him. In the midst of that, he declares God as his only safe haven.
Declare me innocent, O God!
Defend me against these ungodly people.
Rescue me from these unjust liars.
For you are God, my only safe haven.
Why have you tossed me aside?
Why must I wander around in grief,
oppressed by my enemies?
Send out your light and your truth;
let them guide me.
Let them lead me to your holy mountain,
to the place where you live.
There I will go to the altar of God,
to God—the source of all my joy.
I will praise you with my harp,
O God, my God!
Why am I discouraged?
Why is my heart so sad?
I will put my hope in God!
I will praise him again—
my Savior and my God! —Psalm 43 (NLT)
We can imagine the helplessness and fear that comes from being falsely accused. I have had that happen a few times in my life, and only on a small scale (mostly I have deserved any accusations that have come my way!). But I remember the first emotions of indignation that gave way to fear that others would believe the false accusation being said about me. Circumstances felt completely out of my power and anxiety reigned as I realized I could do nothing to change things.
It’s so bad for the psalmist that he feels God has tossed him aside. He wanders around in grief and is oppressed by his enemies. But now that he has his despair on the table, he can deal with it. His very honesty is the doorway to finding hope and deliverance from his hopeless feelings. As he admits them, he asks God to send out his light and truth to guide him—to lead him to his holy mountain, the place where he lives. In other words, he wants to be in God’s presence.
Why does he want to be in God’s presence? Because God is the source of all his joy. As we talked about God being love, so is he joy.
Even though the psalmist is struggling with his emotions of fear and discouragement, he chooses to praise God with his harp. As he expresses the feelings that threaten to overwhelm and swamp him, he forces himself to look beyond his natural reactions to Truth.
Asking himself why he is sad and discouraged, he determines to put his hope in God. “I will praise him again—my savior and my God!”
As fear and anxiety threaten you today, commit the phrase “God—the source of all my joy” to memory. When circumstances or emotions of fear and anxiety start to overwhelm you, place yourself firmly in God’s presence, your source of all joy.
Lord, it is so easy for me to pretend I have things under control. I can tell myself things are no big deal, but then I keep going under that lie until I collapse as it crushes me. Help me recognize when I am stuffing my anxiety. Help me to see why I am feeling anxious and to deal with it head on instead of pretending I don’t feel overwhelmed. After I identify my fear, help me to run to your presence, the source of all my joy.
Excerpted from my book No More Fear: 40 Days to Conquer Worry.