I believe that this psalm is written to help us discover the secret of joy! The Message translation of the first couple of lines of this psalm reads “It seemed like a dream, too good to be true, when God returned Zion’s exiles. We laughed, we sang, we couldn’t believe our good fortune.” Laughter and God – Joy and God go together! Joy is the result of being restored by God, happy because of what God has done for us. “When the Lord restored the fortunes of Zion” (NRSV) – when God brought back God’s people to where they should have been all along … we are brought back to who we were designed to be: God’s very own beloved. Restored to our very own self, we can only be filled with laughter and with shouts of joy! This psalm goes to the very heart of God’s relationship with us. God’s beloved. We are loved with an everlasting love; we are called by name and God speaks “You are mine, my beloved” over and over again. It is from this bedrock that joy springs – it is from this bedrock that you and I are invited to live.
Whatever our temperament, whatever our situation is it not true that we all desire to have a constant joy that is so amazing and so obvious that people around us begin to want to become part of the experience? And again to the psalm and the Message translation: “We were the talk of the nations – God was wonderful to them! God was wonderful to us; we are one happy people”.
The psalm develops a model of praying for this gift of being restored. From the Message translation, verse 4: “And now, God, do it again - bring rains to our drought stricken lives” – like streams in the desert. Josh Moody wrote about this model of prayer outlined for us in psalm 126 - “joy begins with humility, admitting that we need restoring; it is discovered in community; it celebrates gospel perspectives – good news; it is nurtured in prayer; it is acknowledging a God-centered you – a new creation …”
Joy – it is a choice: we choose whether to value God’s presence and promises and work in our lives. Choice invites us to open our eyes to God’s presence around us. Choice invites us to be filled with joy.
Sr. Doreen McGuff, SSJD