How can we shout for joy?

“You make the going out of the morning and the evening to shout for joy.”

Psalm 65:8 ESV

I suspect that as we continue to edge out of the pandemic and its aftermath, more and more of us will be able to look back and identify our 2020 refrain. Lamentations 3:22-23 was mine: “his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning.” Though my experience was nothing close to the one Jeremiah sang about, I clung to the comfort of fresh mercy that could truly be sung every day.

Lamentations 3 is far from the only place in the Bible to talk about the rhythms of daily life. Scripture is clear that God is not a God only for the big days but for every day. He commanded the Israelites: “And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise” (Deuteronomy 6:6-7, emphasis added). In the Psalms, we read that “weeping may tarry for the night, but joy comes with the morning” (Psalm 30:5) and “from the rising of the sun to its setting, the name of the Lord is to be praised” (Psalm 113:3).

Psalm 65:8, too, uses the imagery of morning and evening. As David sings about how God established the mountains and stills the seas, he cries out, “You make the going out of the morning and the evening to shout for joy.”

In his commentary on the Psalms, Derek Kidner notes that “the going out of the morning and the evening”—literally, “the outgoings”—is hard to translate. It could mean the rising of the sun and its setting, but it could also mean the east—from which the sun “goes out” in the morning—and the west—from which the night “goes out” in the evening. In either case, it’s expansive: God makes all of creation, morning and night, east and west, to shout for joy. 

Creation itself praises God numerous times in Scripture. At the Triumphal Entry, when the Pharisees rebuke Jesus’s disciples for their loud rejoicing at His coming to Jerusalem, Jesus says, “I tell you, if these were silent, the very stones would cry out” (Luke 19:40). Paul teaches that creation itself is waiting with bated breath for “the revealing of the sons of God” (Romans 8:19-23). In this context, it is no surprise that David pictures the morning and the evening—and later in the same psalm, the valleys and the mountains—shouting and singing together for joy in praise of their Creator.

You and I are God’s creation, too. How often do we shout for joy?

For me, it’s not often. Little kids are the ones who get to run around shouting because the fall breeze feels crisp against their skin and the leaves are turning beautiful colors and they got to see a friend today. I’m what little-kid me would have called a grown-up. I follow the rules and buy the groceries and go to work and mop the floor. These are all good things, mind you, even joyful things—but too often, the going out of the morning and the evening and all the grown-up things in-between are routine at best. But if the morning and the evening are shouting for joy, why don’t I? Why doesn’t God’s power coupled with his grace cause us to fall on our knees and make our hearts beat the riotous rhythm of rejoicing that the mountains and valleys already know how to sing?

Maybe because I don’t have much to rejoice about right now, you’re saying. Or maybe you’re reading this and you’re thinking, You have no idea what I’m going through. Joy is great, but it’s for other people right now, or for me at another time.

True, there is a time to weep and a time to laugh (Ecclesiastes 3:4), but often, Biblical joy lives next to sorrow. In Psalm 65, creation sings for joy. A few psalms away, in Psalm 88, a sick and friendless man cries out to God that “you overwhelm me with all your waves.” Psalm 88 is a lament without a chapter three. It does not have a happy ending. Its final words are “my companions have become darkness.” That’s it. The end. On to Psalm 89. Yet both Psalms 65 and 88 are in the Book of Psalms. Both of them are Scripture. The hymn of joy does not nullify the lament, and the lament does not nullify the hymn of joy.

So I don’t ever mean to suggest that Christians can never be sorrowful or that we have to feel happy-go-lucky all the time. Frankly, it would be disingenuous of us to pretend everything is fine in a broken world where everything is so clearly not fine. The correct response to sin and all its consequences is to lament. We lament because we live in the midst of a broken and hurting world. And in the midst of a broken and hurting world, our God makes the going out of the morning and the evening to shout for joy. 

A few Saturdays ago, I spent the afternoon running along a wooded trail around a lake. It started to rain on me halfway through my run, but when you’re on a circular trail, your best option in that situation is to keep going. So I did. Eventually, I came to my favorite segment of the trail, where the trees part and the sky opens, revealing a long bridge across the lake in the trail’s center. And if you had been one of the other brave and chilly souls there on a rainy Saturday afternoon, you would have seen me wearing my old running clothes spattered with raindrops, sprinting across the bridge with my arms wide open and feeling like shouting for joy. Not because I was having a particularly good day or because everything had fallen into place in my life or because of a sudden rush of endorphins, but because of the joy of being alive to worship God on a rainy day in October despite all the brokenness in this world. 

No matter our circumstances, we always have a reason to rejoice. I am almost afraid to write that, because I know I have not experienced even the best of the worst of circumstances. But I also know my God. Even in the valley of the shadow of death, we worship a God who makes the start and end of the day shout for joy. We worship a God of new mercies every morning who will, one day, make all things new. 

One day we will not hold sorrow in one hand and joy in the other. We will open our palms and they will both be filled with joy, filled to the point of overflowing. Between now and then, though, we have sunrises and sunsets to go. And with every sunrise and sunset until that day comes, from east to west, God is already making the going out of the morning and the evening to shout for joy.

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