I started this year with the hope that I would recognize and experience joy more fully. Unfortunately our year has turned out to be more exhausting than ever as my son’s sleeping problems have become an every night occurrence. We have been used to sleepless night’s once or twice a week, but it has now turned into every night. Joy in the midst of sleep-deprivation is a battle. I have to physically fight for it everyday and pray for it all day long.
Tony Reinke at the Desiring God blog did a post from Psalm 86:4 on this very battle I have been fighting. I decided to post the whole thing here instead of linking it, just to make it real easy for all you joy-seekers.
“At the very points in my life when my soul feels most dry and joyless, I often find myself most spiritually speechless. So in the moments when I lack joy, and lack the verbal creativity to put my need into words and prayer, I turn to the Psalms. There my plea finds its language.
In a lot of ways, Psalm 86 is like the Lord’s Prayer. It is a ready-made prayer for our daily lives — short and simple, yet deeply profound. In it we read this plea:
Gladden the soul of your servant, for to you, O Lord, do I lift up my soul. (Psalm 86:4)
Short. Simple. Articulate. And life-giving.
What is the psalmist praying for?
First, he asks to be gladdened, gladdened to his core, gladdened to every corner of his life. He seeks happiness, even in the midst of what appears for him to be painful life circumstances. He seeks joy for his life, like we all do. To find joy, he prays and lifts up his soul to God.
Lifting the soul is a metaphor of childlike dependence and trust. It is also an act of confidence, a focused and single-hearted act that pushes away all rivals. But even more specifically, it is an act of eager anticipation. Lifting our soul to the Lord includes all of this — dependence, trust, confidence, anticipation.
Which is why Psalm 86:4 is such a beautiful and simple prayer for an often-dry, often-speechless, joy-seeker like me. In the language of the psalmist, my prayer is essentially this: “God, I lift up to you my dry, languishing soul. I turn to you because I believe you can restore its joy. I want you alone. I want you to fill me, to fill my soul — to fill my whole being — with joy. Where else can I turn, if not to you? To you alone I lift up my soul, for in you alone will I find the true gladness my soul longs for.”