As I have studied and preached through the first 30 Psalms over the past several months, one recurring theme has impressed itself on my mind and heart: the sufficiency of God. It is not just that God supplies our needs, but that he, himself, is what we most need, and when we learn to trust in him we find complete satisfaction.
This contentment reveals itself in many different ways. In Psalm 1 my delight is in God’s word, and in Psalm 3 he is my glory who raises up my head. In Psalm 4 he puts gladness in my heart more than abundant physical pleasures, and in Psalm 5 his favor surrounds me as a shield. In Psalm 10 I commit myself to the LORD in my helplessness, and as my refuge in Psalm 14. He is my portion and good inheritance in Psalm 16, my hope in whom my heart rests. Then in Psalm 17 my satisfaction is found in becoming like the LORD in righteousness, and in Psalm 18 he is my support and shield. His presence is the source of abundant gladness in Psalm 21, and those who seek him will be satisfied as they worship him in Psalm 22. As the good shepherd in Psalm 23 he satisfies me with peace and restoration, guidance and protection, and his mercy and grace which lead me into his presence. In Psalm 25 it is the LORD for whom I wait, and in Psalm 26 I love to be in his house where his glory may be found. My single-minded desire, in Psalm 27, is to remain in the LORD’s house and experience his grace all my life. He is my saving refuge in Psalm 28, and the one who turns my grief into rejoicing in Psalm 30.
The problem, however, is that I too often mistake the benefits of knowing the LORD with the LORD himself, so that instead of pursuing constant fellowship with him, I end up pursuing a state of mind that I tell myself will result in the blessings of that fellowship. C. S. Lewis writes about this in Surprised by Joy when he says that he completely missed the aim of prayer, “turning away from God to seek states of mind, and trying to produce those states of mind by ‘maistry1.’” The same thing happened to him with respect to his imagination, where the “thrill” became paramount and took the place of the object which produced the state of mind which so excited him. But the thrill of imagination is, as Lewis puts it, “a by-product. It’s very existence presupposes that you desire not it but something other and outer. If…it could be produced from within, it would at once be seen of no value. For take away the object, and what, after all, would be left?–a whirl of images, a fluttering sensation in the diaphragm, a momentary abstraction. And who could want that?” The very joy and satisfaction we experience when we are in God’s presence testify to the fact that we cannot obtain them apart from him. Indeed, he alone is our portion and inheritance, and if we could separate peace and joy from his person, we would find them wholly unsatisfying. Let us seek him today, not for the joy which he brings but for himself, and we will find joy and contentment along the way.
1i.e. “mastery” – As a child, Lewis attempted to master prayer out of a sense of guilt, and it eventually turned into an attempt to manufacture devotion with his mouth that he did not feel within his heart.