Formations 08.23.2020: Finding Joy

Psalms 30; 126

Are you tired of the global pandemic yet? It’s certainly wearing on me. My family and I have spent the spring and summer hunkered down, avoiding crowds, wearing our masks, and missing our friends. Soon I’ll be returning to my second job teaching in-person at the local college. At the same time, my daughter will be going back to college as well. I can’t say I’m thrilled at either prospect.

I expect all of us have experienced the year 2020 as a time of sorrow. If concerns about coronavirus haven’t gotten to you, maybe the heightened awareness of racial injustice and police brutality has. If you’re unfazed by the unbridled political rancor of this election season, then perhaps you’re preoccupied with the dismal state of the economy. Whatever shape or hue your sorrow comes in, you feel it. You’re looking for this dark time to finally be over.

The psalms we study this week call to us from a brighter place. In Psalm 30, the psalmist expresses thanks for the delightful reversal God has brought into his life. God has turned his mourning into dancing, his sackcloth into joy. Therefore, he praises and gives thanks. Psalm 126 expresses the same theme with respect to the entire nation. Because of the great things God has done for Zion, “our mouth was filled with laughter, and our tongue with shouts of joy” (v. 2).

How shall we hear these words of exultation today?

Maybe we can hear in them echoes from our past. We know what it’s like to experience God’s goodness in tangible ways because God has come through before. We have received unforeseen blessings and quietly whispered our thanks.

Maybe we can hear these words as postcards from the future. If God has been with us in the past, this can give us hope that God will come through again in God’s good timing. If we find little cause for rejoicing right now, we can remember the words of renowned preacher John Claypool that the worst things are never the last things.

And maybe we can hear these words as a call to rejoice in the Lord always—even in a disheartening present. What are the joys that you can rest in even today? Life, after all, goes on. Babies are born. Couples get married. Tests come back negative. In all of this, God continues to turn our mourning into rejoicing.

Faith demands we remember that this is the kind of God we serve.

Discussion

• How do you maintain hope in difficult times?
• When have you experienced a delightful reversal of fortune? How did you respond? Whom did you tell?
• What has God’s goodness to you inspired you to do for others?
• What place does joyful shouting (126:5-6), laughter (126:1), and dancing (30:11) have in our lives? What place do they have in the life of faith?
• What keeps us from expressing gratitude so exuberantly?

Darrell Pursiful is the editor of Formations. He is an adjunct professor at Mercer University and an active member of the First Baptist Church of Christ in Macon, Georgia.

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