Preserve me, O God, for I take refuge in You.
I said to the Lord, “You are my Lord;
I have no good besides You.”
As for the saints who are in the earth,
They are the majestic ones in whom is all my delight.
The sorrows of those who have bartered for another god will be multiplied;
I shall not pour out their drink offerings of blood,
Nor will I take their names upon my lips.
The Lord is the portion of my inheritance and my cup;
You support my lot.
The lines have fallen to me in pleasant places;
Indeed, my heritage is beautiful to me.
I will bless the Lord who has counseled me;New American Standard Bible 1995
Indeed, my mind instructs me in the night.
Sometimes, we feel surrounded by amazing blessings. Sometimes we feel abandoned in a wasteland. But most of our days are in an “in-between” state, where we recognize we have some difficulties and some joys. Rarely are our circumstances completely desperate, but rarely are we in a state of complete bliss. Our normal days are more, well, normal, and we live with the metaphorical choice of viewing our life’s glass as “half-full” or “half-empty.”
I have known some wonderful saints who live with such enthusiasm and joy that I assumed their “glasses” must be overflowing. I wrestled for years with frustration and guilt that I had not achieved the same jubilance that they showed. What finally convinced me that my expectations were unreasonable were the stories these saints told. Just like me, they were bothered by life’s problems, and they wrestled with disappointments, but they consistently chose to marvel at what God was doing even in difficult times. Their experiences are no different from mine, but they chose to focus on God’s blessings. I am encouraged that I can make choices in seeing “half-full” the same way as these saints.
Still, sometimes our difficulties overwhelm us. We know people that have been emotionally flooded by the pressures and difficulties of life. It is brutally difficult to choose to “think positive” in the throes of anxiety or depression, and God holds closely those who are living in despair. I’ve talked a few friends who have come through deep struggles, and they’ve told me of how their journey finally led them to this same choice. They treasure the moment when they realized they could choose to focus on the half-full rather than the half-empty, and their choice to dwell on the positive led them to more positive choices and the wholeness they craved.
So much comes down to this choice, and we make it many times each day. Some people are practiced at choosing to see half-full. We also know those who frequently choose to see their glass as half-empty, no matter how they have been blessed. Some of you, like me, have an unsettled nature to our personalities that is grateful for our blessings but is troubled by all that isn’t right. When that nature is expressed in empathy for the poor, the disrupted, the sick, and the lonely, it can reflect Jesus’ nature as He reached out in love to the ignored and rejected of His time. But I find my unsettled nature rarely lets me feel contented, and my thoughts eat through my blissful emotions far too quickly. But my choice remains the same. I don’t need an ecstatic mood to overwhelm my discontent. Instead, my deliberate choices and my purposeful decisions focus on God’s blessings, rather than obsessing on what is missing, flawed, or broken in my life and my world.
One of the themes in this psalm is the choice David made to pay close attention to his blessings. David didn’t praise God in this psalm for the abundance of his feasts, the vastness of his empire, or the quantity of his possessions. Instead, David was grateful that God has provided his portion in life. David didn’t fret that the boundaries of his nation were limited, but rejoiced in what was contained in the boundaries. With God’s help, David defied the old adage that “the grass is always greener on the other side of the fence” and found delight in the half-full.
David let us know that he achieved this state of gratefulness only because of God’s transforming power in teaching him how to live. Gratefulness did not result from abundance, for David realized that what satisfies greed in one moment will not be enough in the next. His gratefulness didn’t result from emotions. Notice in the last verse of this section that David is relying on his mind to consciously direct him to recognize the good and praise God for it. (Other translations use the word “heart” because in David’s time, the heart was considered to be the center of thoughts, and the liver to be the center of emotions.)
Those of you wonderful saints who live in the joy of the half-full know this to be true. You live with a joy in the core of your being that is not something ephemeral like an emotion. Instead, it is a sprouted seed of what you are becoming; it is a gyroscope set by God to maintain your direction; it is a longing pulling at you when you occasionally slip and start to ponder the empty portion of your glass. You know the choice to focus on God’s blessings becomes easier the more you practice it, but you know it will always remain your choice. Thank you for sharing your example of a joyful life with the rest of us!
Are you blessed? Of course you are! The more important question is this: as you live, do you remember that you are blessed?
New American Standard Bible®, Copyright © 1960, 1971, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. All rights reserved.