Psalm 126 (ESV)1When the LORD restored the fortunes of Zion, we were like those who dream. 2Then our mouth was filled with laughter, and our tongue with shouts of joy; then they said among the nations, "The LORD has done great things for them." 3The LORD has done great things for us; we are glad.

4Restore our fortunes, O LORD, like streams in the Negeb! 5 Those who sow in tears shall reap with shouts of joy! 6He who goes out weeping, bearing the seed for sowing, shall come home with shouts of joy, bringing his sheaves with him.

One of the delightful discoveries along the way of Christian discipleship is how much enjoyment there is, how much laughter you hear, how much sheer fun you find. As Christians we should partake in joy as a daily ritual, exclaiming our enjoyment in living a life of obedience to God.

A Consequence, Not a Requirement: Joy is characteristic of the Christian pilgrimage. It is the second in Paul’s list of the fruits of the Spirit (Gal 5:22 - 23). It is the first of Jesus’ signs in the Gospel of John. Joy is not a requirement of Christian discipleship, it is a consequence. It is not what we have to acquire in order to experience life in Christ; it is what comes to us when we are walking in the way of faith and obedience. We can decide to live in response to the abundance of God and not under the dictatorship of our own poor needs. One of the certain consequences of such a life is joy, the kind expressed in Psalm 126.

Joyful Expectation: Joy is nurtured by anticipation. If the joy-producing acts of God are characteristic of our past as God’s people, they will also be characteristic of our future as his people. Christian joy is not an escape from sorrow. Pain and hardship still come, but they are unable to drive out the happiness that the redeemed will experience. Joy is what God gives, not what we work up.

Christian joy happens in the midst of pain, suffering, loneliness, and misfortune. “3More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, 4and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, 5and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us. 6For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. 7For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die— 8but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. 9Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. 10For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. 11More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation” (Rom 5:3-11).

The psalm does not give joy as a package or as a formula, but there are some things it does do. It shows up the tininess of the world’s joy and affirms the solidarity of God’s joy. God promises that whatever else is happening we can be a happy people. Why? Because “the LORD has done great things for us; we are glad.”

(This post is a summary and partial abridgement of Eugene Peterson’s book “A Long Obedience In The Same Direction.” It is based solely on Peterson’s work and any help that this content gives should be credited to God’s grace through Peterson’s effort. In other words, give God glory, thank Eugene Peterson and consider buying the book.)