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Manufacturing Joy

(This is the last in the Three Essential Habits series – an excerpt from an upcoming chivalry devotional.)

“Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me? Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my salvation and my God. My soul is cast down within me; therefore I remember you from the land of Jordan and of Hermon, from Mount Mizar.” –Psalm 42:6

In this passage, we see a strange thing. We see a dejected, depressed David deciding to pull his heart out of the mire of mubblefubbles and hope in God. Here Scripture implies that our Creator made us with at least some ability to control our emotions. John Calvin wrote of Psalm 42, “We have seen David contending courageously against his own affections.”[i] We can manufacture joy in our hearts when it feels like there is none. This makes sense in light of other passages commanding us to rejoice. If we are commanded to rejoice, we must be able to do it. God doesn’t give us injunctions that are impossible to keep (1 Corinthians 10:13).

This is a large part of chivalric courage. Chivalry calls us to fight the forces of darkness inside of ourselves just as much as we war against enemies of God outside of ourselves. We are called to war against despair in our hearts and fight for the joy God commands His redeemed people to have. We are to, with David, “courageously contend against our own affections.” So how do we do this? How did David do this? Here are three ideas:

  1. Purposefully call to mind (or meditate on) the realities of God’s goodness. He recalls the mighty acts of God on His people’s behalf. At the River Jordan, God brought His people safely over by miraculously parting the waters. Hermon, the tallest point in Israel (9,232 ft) is part of a range of mountains where the Jordan originates in the northern borders of Israel. It was a landmark overlooking the victory over the Amorites and their giant-kings, Og and Sihon (Deut 3:8), and was where Joshua defeated the Hivites (Joshua 11:3). Mount Mizar is unidentified today, but I suspect it was another geographic location David associated with a mighty work of God. One way to call up joy into our hearts when we don’t feel it is to remember times and places God has done great things for us in the past.
  2. Pray to God: for help, for a change in heart, for a gushing river of joy over dry spirits. David is not only addressing himself in Psalm 42 but crying out to God as well. “Unless God,” Calvin wrote about this verse, “impart strength to us, how shall we be able to subdue the many evil thoughts which constantly arise in our minds? The soul of man serves the purpose, as it were, of a workshop to Satan in which to forge a thousand methods of despair.”
  3. Be thankful! Gratitude is an effective antidote to depression and aid to joy. Relax and enjoy the good things God gives you (physical and spiritual, little and big). List them in your mind and thank him for each one. Paul tells us that thankfulness, along with rejoicing and prayer, is God’s will for us in 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18.

[i] Calvin, John. Calvin’s Commentaries, volume 5: Commentary on The Book of Psalms. Baker Books. Grand Rapids, MI. 2009 P 137

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