But that little moment, I couldn’t forget it. Why? First, I appreciated his response. He didn’t give me a Publix approved customer service script. No, he was telling it like it is, at least, like it is with him. But more than that, I started asking myself the question. “Is that the best we can do, just hanging in there?” Now, I don’t want to completely knock hanging in there. Right now, my sister Anna is sick with Covid, my dad’s new wife, Reba and possibly my niece, Lauren. I definitely want them all to keep hanging in there.
But in the real struggles of these days, can there be something more? Can there be something more than just hanging in there? Can joy, fulfillment, happiness, what the Bible calls blessedness, live and thrive in these days? God says yes. And in these words, God tells exactly how the blessedness comes. Here God shows the way. Let’s listen and hear what God has to say.
Can you experience joy, peace, happiness in the most troubled of these days? God says yes. God even makes it the first word of the psalm. But the word translated, happy here, means more than that. The word is actually blessed. And that word blessed points to deeper fulfillment than simple happiness. Blessedness means happiness and much more. And how does blessedness happen? It happens when you root yourself in the waters, in the only water that can sustain you on even the driest of days.
Now, blessedness doesn’t mean you go through life smiling all the time, singing happy songs. If you live like that, especially in these days, you’re not happy. You’re delusional. You are disconnected from reality. The psychiatrist Scott Peck said it well, 30 years ago. Life is difficult. (And he wasn’t even writing in a pandemic.) Blessedness doesn’t mean you deny that. Then it wouldn’t be real. And blessedness is real. It does exist. And it looks like this. It looks like a tree planted by a stream of water, giving fruit in its season.
That image tells you a lot. It tells you that the tree’s fulfillment comes from what it draws from inside. It doesn’t come from circumstances on the outside.
Now good circumstances are great. But they don’t last. That’s why they’re called circumstances. No, you need something that lasts, that goes deeper, that penetrates to the root. That’s blessedness. Heck, even with great circumstances, wonderful spouse, terrific kids, tremendous success, down deep you can still be profoundly unhappy.
So, circumstances don’t bring you happiness. But tapping into the waters does. That’s what the tree does. It taps into the water, the stream that flows right beside it. And because it does, its leaf does not wither. This doesn’t mean everything goes great. The psalm also tells you. The tree yields fruit in its season. In other words, it’s not full of abundance all the time. It has seasons of abundance yes. But Winter comes too, famines even. But even then, it thrives. It grows. Its leaf does not wither.
So, blessedness does not mean that you don’t experience sadness or grief. It doesn’t mean that you don’t face fear or discouragement. But it does mean this. It means, no matter what you face, down deep, you have a stream of life from which you draw strength. You have waters that sustain you no matter what you face. In fact, not only does tragedy not dry the waters up. Tragedy moves you to draw deeper, to draw more on those waters than ever before. But how do you draw on them? What’s the water?
That’s where most folks, go really? That’s it. For the psalm tells you that you draw on the waters by meditating on the law of God. Dadgummit. It’s the old Bible bait and switch. You paint this awesome picture of fulfillment, peace, blessedness, and then you tell me it comes when I read this book? How does that even happen?
But hold on, the psalm didn’t say just read it. It said meditate on it. You see, lots of folks read it, including lots of folks who go to church, but they never draw on it. And reading it without drawing on it, without meditating…that’s like dying of thirst, and just looking at the water, and saying wow, that looks good. That is some clear water, very helpful, very wet. No, you don’t just read it. You draw on the waters, like the tree does. And you do that by meditating on it.
And by meditate, I don’t mean some fancy technique. No, meditating just means. You don’t just read the words. You let the words read you. Heck, you can do it right now, in just a few seconds. You just ask yourself. In these difficult days, what water have you been drawing on? A lot of times, I’ve been drawing on the water of distraction, on the water of the daily news, on the water of my worries, my frustrations, my anger. And none of that has brought me joy or happiness, certainly not blessedness.
But then I think what would it be like to be a tree like this in the psalm just soaking up the water, drawing the clearness, the vibrancy, the life of that water, of that stream into myself? Doesn’t that sound amazing? If it does, then you’re meditating, you’re delighting in the law of the Lord.
You see, don’t think of the law of the Lord here as rules. Think of the law of the Lord more like reality, like the law of gravity. Law here means delighting in the reality of God, of the reality that lies at the heart of God, God’s love for you. And this book gives you wondrous image after image, story after story to grasp that ultimate reality, to meditate on it. That’s the water you need. Where to start? Just start with Psalm 1 or any psalm. Or start reading a gospel. Let it soak into you. And don’t expect some magic revelation. You’re a tree, and trees take time to grow, to flourish, to bloom, but if you do meditate, the nourishment, the growth will come.
I love the way St. Augustine put it. Augustine wrote: Neither is God bread, nor is God water, nor is God this light, nor is God garment nor house…and what these things are, God is not, for they are visible things…[but] if you hunger, God is bread to you; if you thirst, God is water to you…if you are naked, God is a garment of immortality to you. Meditation brings you that reality.
But God goes beyond this book to give you reality. For God came as a living word, the word enfleshed in Jesus. This book tells you of that word, of that reality, of that love come to earth. For in Jesus, this love, this God, gave up everything for you. It’s the reality we will celebrate, we will even experience at this table, a God whose love went to death and beyond for you, for me. And the more you meditate on that reality, at this table, in this book, the more blessedness comes. That is the path to happiness and no other.
But don’t come just to get the happiness. Then, you’re not coming to God. You’re not worshipping God, not rooting yourself there. No, you’re worshipping your own happiness, and using an imaginary God to get you there. That way never brings you happiness nor does it bring you to God.
No, delighting in the reality of God does that. And reality you experience at this table. So, get your bread, your cup, and say to God. I want to experience your love in this meal, in this book. I want to delight in that reality. And as you delight, you will grow in blessedness, no matter the season, no matter the hardships. And you will discover what one Christian put so eloquently. “For…Fathers and mothers, husbands, wives, or children or the company of earthly friends, are but shadows; but God is the substance. These are but scattered beams, but God is the sun. These are but streams. But God is the ocean.” (Jonathan Edwards)
And the ocean is there, ready for you, ready to give you life, to give you joy, to give you blessedness even in these days. So take and read, and eat and drink. And delight in the reality of the One, the Blessed One, who loves you no matter what. Let us pray.