You turned my wailing into dancing;
you removed my sackcloth and clothed me with joy,
that my heart may sing your praises and not be silent. Lord my God, I will praise you forever.
Living Out of Joy
Before I became a Pastor and eventually a Church Planter, I served for over a decade as the Worship Director of Fifth Reformed Church in Grand Rapids, MI. It was a logical fit for me. It fit me bio-logically—my dad was a pastor, my mom was a church musician, and together they had performed and led worship my whole life. But it also fit me theo-logically—it helped me grasp the truth about God in ways that neither scripture alone nor music alone was able to do. This was back in the late 1990’s and early 2000’s, and so the worship music from that time had (and has) a special place in my spiritual memory.
One of the memorable songs of that time was “Trading My Sorrows,” by Darrell Evans. Do you remember that one? I came across Evans’ recording Freedom among the CDs in my car just this past week and put it on, not realizing at the time that our Thirsty Thursday psalm today is the inspiration for Darrell Evans’ 2003 popular worship song. If you’re too young to know it (or too old to remember) these are the words of the chorus:
I’m trading my sorrows, I’m trading my shame; I’m laying them down for the joy of the Lord! I’m trading my sickness, I’m trading my pain; I’m laying them down for the joy of the Lord.
Evans loosely paraphrases verses 11 & 12 from Psalm 30 here in the beginning of his song, and virtually quotes verse 5 of the psalm later on:
Though the sorrow may last for the night, His joy comes with the morning.
It’s strong, singable, biblical, encouraging—everything you’d want a worship song to be—a beautiful testimony to a faith-filled life. And it was one of my favorites back in the day, so it’s hard to find any fault with it…but I’ll try anyway!
Darrell Evans’ song captures the spirit of David’s psalm but there are a couple of points that deserve a closer look. Not that he is necessarily getting them wrong, but I often do. The first is the source of our joyful life and the second is the direction of our joyful life,
In Psalm 30 David describes this joyful life experience: his wailing has been replaced with dancing, and his sackcloth has been replaced with joy. What’s interesting to note, however, is that the source of this change is something God has done. God has “turned” David’s wailing into dancing; God has “removed” the clothes of mourning and replaced them with clothes of joy. All too often, I seem to forget that even though I may want things to change in my life–even though I may want a joyful life–God is the only source of real change in my life. The extent to which I can “trade my sorrows for joy” is related exclusively to my willingness to receive God’s grace.
It’s not about anything I can do. It’s all about what Christ has done.
The second point David is careful to make relates to the direction of a joyful life. God has given him a joyful life, “[so] that my heart may sing your praises and not be silent.” Again, I sometimes get that direction backward. I find myself believing that if I do all the right things—worship every Sunday, behave myself throughout the rest of the week, try hard to love my neighbor—if I do those things, they will lead me to the joy of the Lord. And they sometimes do. But I can become preoccupied with “working at my joy,” instead of “working out of my joy.” When I operate toward joy, when I make that my pursuit, I can find myself exhausted and resentful. But when I operate from joy, I am forced to stay close to the source. After all, “The joy of the Lord is my strength.”
If you want to experience a joyful life, stop wasting your time constantly chasing after it. Instead, let the Source of all joy find you and let Him fill you. Jesus Christ can transform your wailing into dancing—he is offering you a new set of “joy clothes.” And he is offering this joyful life so that you can love and follow hard after Him. Life in Christ can be both “JOY-FILLED” and “JOY-FUELED.” Return to Him, again and again. His grace is new every morning. He is the source, the Living Well; stay thirsty for him!