The struggle for happiness becomes a struggle for the remembrance of the daily help and hope the Lord provides. The patterns of daily worship, or prayer, of fellowship with believers are reminders of our help and hope.
The Psalms present to us a struggle for happiness. So does life.
The Psalter begins, it could be said, with full happiness. Psalm 1:1 reads, “Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked”. Blessed may sound at first to some as a purely religious word, something one says when trying to sound spiritual. Others may see blessed as simply a hashtag.
And yet, scholars observe that the word has a more fulsome, present meaning to us, conveyed in the full and wonderful sense of “happy”, a genuine happiness in God Himself.
The Psalter begins with happiness.
The struggle of the Psalter is twofold; so too the struggle of life. First, the life of happiness is confronted with the confusing and overwhelming sorrows that invade any sense of delight. By Psalm 3 in the Psalter enemies surround, sleeplessness invades, and death seems near.
And from there, for much of the Psalter, the chorus of happiness is constantly mixed with the notes of sorrow. Is happiness truly attainable in a suffering world?
The second struggle dovetails with the first and in fact logically precedes it: that of human sin. Even Psalm 3 is set in context of David fleeing Absalom, an incident which served as downstream fruit of David’s erring ways.
The life of those seeking blessing in the Psalter is sinful, often horrifically and repeatedly so. Psalms 89 and 106 end books 3 and 4 of the Psalter, and both reveal the note of what happens to a sinful people.
“He who walks not in the counsel of wicked” may be happy and blessed, but that is not the people of Israel, or you or me for that matter. Sinful people are left in desperation, in exile.