You make known to me the path of life;
in your presence there is fullness of joy;
at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.
— Psalm 16:11
I love this Psalm. I wasn’t very old when I first heard it, but I was old enough to know that there was something more than what appeared on the surface. Like so much of what we read in scripture, the real treasures are often found in those simple words and phrases we see but give little thought to.
Many years ago, I was reading one of Chuck Swindoll’s many treasures. (I don’t recall which one.) While I was eagerly awaiting one of those golden nuggets of wisdom that Swindoll is so masterful at gleaning from the text, thud. He hit the scholarly brakes, as if turning the tale around midsentence and going down an entirely different path of thought. Strewn across the page in all caps, he had written this:
STOP, DON’T READ PAST THAT.
What was my literary idol thinking? “Wrong place to take a break Chuck,” I thought. But as I continued reading, it turned out to be the perfect place for him to catch a writer’s breath and etch into this reader’s mind a lesson of great value. In the paragraph following that little halt in the action, Swindoll began to explain the importance of every word God has breathed. He said that a correct application of the text often relies on our not missing the meaning, placement, and purpose of a solitary word, not even a comma, semicolon, or period. Every entry into the sacred text is a valuable component in our understanding of the story God writes.
This is true of the Psalm you just read at the top of the page, particularly in this phrase:
“in your presence there is joy”
Oops, missed a couple of words, didn’t I? “In your presence there is fullness of joy.” True, as pastor David Griffin preached this past Sunday, everyone wants to be happy. We all want that feeling of Christmas cheer, don’t we? We want it to stay around too. But happiness, like Christmas cheer, fades with the season. When Santa climbs back up the chimney and returns to the North Pole, the Christmas Cheer and the joy of the season seem to go with him. So it is with happiness. When the event that sets the dopamine, oxytocin, serotonin, or endorphins building up in your body level out, so does the happiness they brought. Why? Happiness is merely a chemical thing: a temporary high, the result of a moment’s pleasure. Joy can be too if left to the non-believing mind to understand.
But for the follower of Jesus, joy is a way of life that doesn’t hitch a ride back north on December 26th. The fullness of joy the Psalmist speaks of is that measure that flows from a never-ending supply found in the presence of the Savior. How do you get to that place, to the presence of the Savior? By inviting Jesus into your life. When you do, the Holy Spirit enters your heart and will be there forevermore, bringing “joy unspeakable and full of glory.”
Are you ready to get yours?