Happiness remains that elusive figure darting in and out of life with amazing swiftness. Despite desperate measures to cater to material whims and avoid significant danger, men find themselves searching frantically for answers while asking all the wrong questions. When given opportunity and time to reflect, men typically define their happiness in terms of getting their own way, having their own worth proved, and obtaining exactly what they want. In short, from a worldly perspective, happiness revolves around man’s ego. And this explains man’s unhappiness. Most people instinctively realize their flaws, their insufficiency, and their need for fulfillment. Otherwise, why would so much of psychology attempt to address these issues, however flawed the approach? Indeed, recognizing how much we need God’s help while we struggle through life provides a perspective about ourselves—and about life—that paves the way to true happiness.
David experienced persecution and grief, struggle and sorrow, throughout his life even while rising to rule the nation of Israel. These, along with his flaws and failings, reside in the inspired record as a testimony to the ups and downs of life that come whether due to personal sin, outside attack, or simply the nature of life. Therefore, the words of Psalm 144, built on the foundation of some thoughts and figures of a few previous poems pull together the meekness of a man and the confidence of a king to express how faith in God makes happiness possible.
Borrowing from Psalm 18:2 the psalm opens with a series of metaphors that come wave after wave extolling the available protection and proven character of Jehovah God (Psa. 144:1-2), and in these we can find happiness. For David these figures had meaning rooted in reality. He knew the importance of a solid place for a headquarters and a place to train. He understood the consistency of God’s love that gave all promises their strength, offering the best defense against naysayers and doubt. He could look ahead and see his deliverance from the enemy because He had faith in the defense provided by the LORD who also brought people under his rule. Indeed, the personal faith expressed by “my” underscores the personal trust in a personal God. This itself makes the next section so interesting. Once again borrowing from earlier efforts, David ties together how we should accept the LORD’s interest in man with great humility, knowing that our years are short and our bodies frail (Psa. 144:3-4). On our own, we are nothing in the grand scheme of the universe. We remain insufficient to address our own problems. But God is all-sufficient to address them completely, which makes happiness possible. Responding to man’s need and man’s cries for help, the LORD can overwhelm the greatest enemy no matter where he might lurk and rescue us from the most harrowing of circumstances. The boasts of the godless are nothing alongside the reality of the living God (Psa. 144:5-8). Therefore, despite the fears we face in life, we can still find happiness through the God of life. Each and every challenge we face brings new struggles but also more room for a greater faith. For each time we recognize God’s hand in our individual lives, it builds our faith—and our happiness—that much more (Psa. 144:9-11), as the reference to the “new song,” “David,” and the near repetition of verse eight in verse eleven suggest. The backdrop of war and the lofty figures of faith described to this point could easily lead to a focus on grandiose schemes if not for the grounded purposes to which the psalm’s victory aspired. Raising children to adulthood, productive and beneficial work, and peaceful living may seem like modest aims in a world intent on power, money, and fame, but these blessings are the stuff of real life and real happiness (Psa. 144:12-1). “Happy are the people who are in such a state; Happy are the people whose God is the Lord!” (Psa. 144:15). This final refrain captures the sentiment of the whole psalm. People struggle to find happiness in life because they fail to seek after God.
This psalm has a poignancy to it that gives depth and perspective to its final summation that people rarely consider. True happiness comes from a relationship with God and all that He does. Trying to get happiness without Him will forever be an act of futility. Seeking happiness in Him, on the other hand, is an act of faith. Therefore, we can only be happy to the degree that we build our lives around faith in God.