There is a lot of talk these days about being stressed, sad or overwhelmed. There is another crowd who claims to be “blessed” no matter what is going on in the world around them. It can seem artificial at times when you know they are going through just as many problems as you are going through. So, what is true? The Pixar movie Inside Out (which I love) lets us know that all emotions are necessary throughout our lives and basically if we suppress them, they will pop out in other ways. Your issues become your tissues is the phrase I have heard recently regarding one’s emotions and stifling them. In this book we will see the full range of human emotions. Can we be blessed even if we do not feel happy in the moment? 

Whenever I read the first few Psalms, I am reminded to dig deeper into Gods ways and His heart and if I do, I am promised many things such as being a well- watered tree that brings forth fruit in due season (Ps.1). Then there are the Psalms of going to the House of God – always inspiring. When I am feeling discouraged or lonely I enjoy the songs of Lament. When I have been in a war zone physically or spiritually. I like to read the warfare Psalms. Psalms of restoration, repentance, and renewal – all of them can be applied to our daily lives.

But what about this quest for being blessed or happy? Are there levels of that? I heard a joke recently on the radio that asked, “what is the difference between a pizza  and God?” “You can top a pizza but you can’t top God”.  Did you know that McDonalds Happy meal came out in 1977? The origin of it is “complicated” according to their history but they say the first was in the shape of a circus wagon with toys, a drink, fries, and a hamburger. You could buy happiness – either in the form of food or a toy. Those who bought it were happy and those who did not were, I guess, supposed to be sad. For the first time we equated being happy with buying a product or ingesting food. This is the start of rewarding with calories. I do not know if the buyers were as happy when they checked their cholesterol as adults!

Well, last week my teenagers told me about Wendys coming out with their Biggie Bag. It came with no promise of happiness. This week the $5 meal deal came back to McDonalds. In a tough economic slump, it was a spot of joy – until Wendys TOPPED it. They went above and beyond and added, a drink or a FROSTY!!! That’s like a Happy Meal on steroids. A frosty? Serious, not just an extra French fry or lukewarm pie but actual ice cream. They should call it the Happier Meal. Lol. They somehow tapped into our real desire for a happy lunch! It is not just that we want a cheaper meal, we want something of value that costs something, right? We were now blessed beyond measure. It was bigger than we could have imagined.  We did not deserve it but we were blessed – with a bonus. Extra, above and beyond what was expected. The Psalmist David shares with his readers how “extra,” “above and beyond” God was to him. He describes many wonders in the Heavens and great deeds but also lets us know that God was the one who could clean his filthy heart. David tells us in the Psalms that God not only cleaned his heart but exchanged it for a pure one. We are not sure how He does all this, but we are forever grateful that He does. No wonder David praised Him! Over the top Joy comes from this over the top God.

The Biblical view of happiness is rooted in Gods benevolent care of us. In Psalm 144 we read, “happy is the man whose God is the Lord.
Happy is that people, who is in such a case: yes, happy is that people, whose God is the LORD. Blessed and happy are similar concepts in the Old Testament. The Hebrew word for happy/blessed is eser. It means to be happy and blessed. The conditions to be happy and blessed come after the author states we are to follow after God and get to know Him. We get to be happy not because we buy a Happy Meal (or Biggie Bag with Frosty) or  get good grades or do remarkable things. We are happy in Jesus because we have surrendered to God the Lord. He cares for us as a Shepherd and provider. We have chosen to be obedient to this good Gods’ ways. It is more than an emotion; it is a state of yielding that yields rewards – Frosty size.

If I renamed the book of Psalms, I would call it the book of Emotions because it literally covers all of them. It is the true pouring out of one’s soul to a God who longs to hear and answer our hearts pleas. It demonstrates that the God we pray to understands our emotions, feelings, anxieties, and joys. Whether we sing, play, or verbally express what is going on, it delights the Lord.

Exercise: If you hum or sing a song in the morning and repeat it in a few different places, by the end of the night you will hear this song back either in your house or the restaurant or the grocery store. How do I know this? I have tested it several times. It is amazing. Please test it out and share the results with me. Pick a basic song like God is good or Sweet Hour of prayer and see how far the song travels. Psalms, hymns, and songs of praise not only impact us in our spirits and souls, but they reach others.

We were getting rid of clutter from our house recently. It was a hot summer day, and I was weary. The dust affected my eyes, the heavy boxes made my back sore, and I was just in a sour mood. One of my sons’ friends came by to help us in our dilemma. He is a great guy and his support encouraged us but then, oh in that moment as we were walking down the stairs to go to our van, he started to hum, then began to sing the Words, “He’s worthy, the Lord is worthy…” I do not remember all the words and I do not know if I have ever heard that specific song but guess what? My eyes were lifted to the King instead of my frustration. My heart was lifted to the One who is worthy rather than my pain. The atmosphere changed, we changed. He pointed us back to where our hearts remember there is a loving God in control of all our situations and life paused and God came near. It was not a whole song; it was just a tiny portion of a song while he was walking down some stairs, that gave glory to Jesus. Ooo, there is a worshipper in the house, someone who knows they can call on God. Someone who remembers He is the same yesterday, today and forever. Someone who remembers they are a child of the King. It was only a few words, just a few bars of music and my spirit stood at attention and my heart leaped with joy when I was brought nearer to my Lord. Psalms refresh us, they remind us, they cause us to remember what the world muffles and distracts us to forget. A two second utterance of praise to God, in a brief moment stirred my spirit and yielded more praise.

We read Psalms this month and studied them in four sections:

Week 1- Psalm 1-35

Week 2: Psalm 36-71

Week 3: Psalm 72- 110

Week Four: Psalm 111-150

You can go systematically through the Psalms until you land on Psalm 150 where David (in a crescendo and on a macro level) encourages everyone to play every type of music with every type of instrument all day long. He uses several imperatives to tell us, “You must praise Him now.” He tells us to praise God in the sanctuary and in the heavens. We are to praise Him for His great acts of power and surpassing greatness. We are to praise Him with dancing, cymbals, and joy. We hear the invitation to come praise God throughout the Psalms but here, with the most intense verbs possible, we are told it is an imperative command to praise Him with every form, every dance, every instrument for ALL that God has done. If we do not see what He has done, we cannot praise Him for it. If we do not pause to remember or acknowledge these great deeds, they will go unnoticed and not proclaimed. It is not just the weak or great that are to praise Him, it is everything and everybody that has breath. Breath is the most foundational and basic element that we can thank God for giving us. If you doubt that hold your breath for a few minutes and see what life is like without it. ALL of Gods’ creation is given orders to praise HIM with everything possible.

You can also study the Psalms at a micro level – pick one word such as Zara (zawraw in Hebrew). It is a tiny little word in Psalm 139:3. It means to winnow, scatter and search. In English it is compass – “Thou compassest my path…” in verse three it means to scatter. It expresses intensive or causative action. Perhaps God is sifting the content of our path or perhaps He scattered good seed that will spring up when we get to that point in our path, but it lets us know that He is actively concerned about our paths. His loving kindness covers us and our paths! That is involvement and care. I praise Him that He knows exactly where we are and where we are headed. Even my path matters to God.

At times we need to move our feet and hands to remind our minds and bodies that God is worthy of praise. At other times the beat, the words of music carry us back to the throne where we remember our God is in control. Whether we “bless the Lord oh my soul and all that is within  me” or “praise the Lord in His sanctuary” because it is the time of worship we are standing in covenant with God, proclaiming His goodness to ourselves, our friends and the world that God alone is Lord.

I hope you enjoy this book with your toes, your elbows, your musical sense, your instruments, your dance, all your emotions and every breath you take from here on. May you remind yourself and others of His goodness. May you remember His love and mercy. May you experience His grace.

Singing Hallelujah with you,