The more you talk to people the more you realize everyone is looking for the same thing, basically. We all want a happy, fulfilled, good life that we are satisfied with. Whether it’s closeness with family or feeling good about our direction in life and career or being admired by those we respect because we are successful or a thousand other things, we really just want to be happy. We find that a huge amount of our sadness in life is due, in some way, to not having as much of the good life as we wish we had. God gave us the Psalms to address our heart on this very point and call us to Himself.
David, in Psalm 34, gives us the core, key truth for this life. What person “desires life and loves many days, that he may see good?” he asks in verse 12. The answer is to his question is – EVERYBODY does! He has a surprising name for this good life. He calls it “the fear of the Lord” (v.11). In other words, if you want to have the life you love, with many days filled with goodness, then learn to fear the Lord. This is life-giving to all of us. We all need this! The rest of the verses explain how to learn the fear of the Lord.
A huge eye-opener this psalm gives us is this. If you think your good, fulfilled life will happen when you have trouble-free days of smooth sailing, you’ll be sadly mistaken and always feel let down. The path to this good life and the fear of the Lord marches right through hardships. Note how many times David mentions hardship = 7 times, “all my fears,” “all his troubles,” “suffer want and hunger,” “cry for help,” “broken hearted,” “crushed in spirit,” “many are the afflictions.” In other words, DO NOT think anyone will find their “good life” without hardships. It will never happen.
David of all people knew this first hand. The heading of this psalm in the ESV identifies this prayer song as one written following the events of 1 Samuel 21. David was fleeing for his life from one enemy and fell into the hands of another enemy, King Abimelech, who was sure to kill him. God rescued him in a surprising and even funny way. Go read it.
That encounter led David to write about God’s deliverance that restored him to a place of knowing he has a life he loves filled with good and peace. How can this be? He tells us. In that hard moment he, personally, feared the Lord and sought refuge in Him. Look at these statements he makes = 7 times, “I sought the Lord,” “this poor man cried
And when God’s people take refuge in Him, seeking Him, this is what He does. At least 10 times the text says what God does, “He answered me,” “the Lord heard,” “the angel of the Lord encamps around” him, “the eyes of the Lord” are on me, “His ears” are open toward his cry, “the Lord hears and delivers them out of all their troubles.” By walking in faith through hardships, David sees God act and preserve Him according to the promises of Scripture. This is what in turn brings David to a place of delight. But it’s not a delight in a trouble-free life. It’s a delight in something greater – knowledge that Almighty God is watching closely caring for every need.
Fear of God, walking in faith like this causes the one living in hardships to move beyond downcast sorrow. Instead, David says, “I will bless the Lord at all times; His praise shall continually be in my mouth.” Instead of downcast emptiness, there is an overflowing joy in God. In verse 2 he says, “My soul makes its boast in the Lord.” Instead of grieving, there is boasting. Verse 8 reveals what is filling his heart and mind, “Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good!” He’s not harboring ill will toward God and everyone else because of his hardships. He’s harboring, even boasting in all the good things he sees in God.
This is medicine for the downcast soul. Anyone who lives by faith in God in these ways will also see God lifting their thoughts up and away from the things making them sad or fearful. They also will begin to be filled more and more with a joyful boasting in God. I recommend reading this text over and over until you’re able to turn it into your own prayer, crying out to God. May God’s Spirit draw you closer to Him as you do.