Psalm 100 brims with that splendorous joy that comes from close acquaintance with God’s love. Beginning with an exhortation to shout for such joy, the psalm proclaims God’s goodness in exuberant, heartfelt language. Surely only the love of one as constant, steadfast, and faithful as God could inspire such gladness!
As I read the psalm again and again, trying not just to recite someone else’s words but to pray them as if they were my own, I thought the tone was happy. But slowly I discerned a distinction between happiness and joy – and the author was more than happy, he was joyful. Joy and happiness seem the same, but they are not. Happiness lives in external circumstances, but joy dwells in the mind, the heart, the limbs, and the soul. We are happy when we are with people we love, when we have enough money, and when we are having fun. But joy exists even when we cannot be happy. It encompasses happiness and gratitude, but is deeper-rooted than both, and shows itself by transforming one’s very being. A happy person shows their happiness, but a joyful person lives their joy.
Psalm 100 is a glorious expression of abiding joy. Meditating on it, I started to think about how much I have to be grateful for. The Lord entrusted me to loving parents and phenomenal friends, turned some very difficult times into irreplaceable growth experiences, and, most importantly, counted me as one of his treasured sheep. The Lord has brought me through nineteen years safely, and I can be sure that he will continue to do so. I can trust that the Lord “is good and his love endures forever; his faithfulness continues throughout all generations.” What else can I do but shout for joy to the Lord with the earth and alongside his people?