The Herald Weekly Vol XVIII : 11

Happiness In The Face Of Adversity

When faced with adverse circumstances in life, would you be able to survive the trouble and be able to move on with life? Do you know that whether you succeed or fail in coping with adversity depends largely on the company you keep in life? What do we mean by this?

The psalmist in Psalm 1 verses 1-2 tells us: “Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor standeth in the way of sinners, nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful. But his delight is in the law of the LORD; and in his law doth he meditate day and night.”

Verse 1 tells us that a man would enjoy a state of blessedness or be absolutely happy when he avoids the companionship of the wicked, taking pleasure only in the law of the Lord. This state of happiness is seen as a desirable one, and the “man” referred to in this psalm typifies “the general character which includes all people, of all times and of all conditions, who possess the character referred to” (Barnes’ Noted on the Bible). This “man” applies to the poor as well as the rich; to the lowly as well as those of high social status. It refers also to the servant as well as the master; to the young and the old.

Whose company should we avoid?

The psalmist likens a man’s life, or his “way of life or conduct” to a traveller taking a journey, the journey of life. He specifies the kind of persons whom “travellers” ought to avoid in this journey in life in order to be happy or blessed. Verse 1 tells us to avoid:

1. the ungodly
2. the sinners
3. the scornful

Who are the ungodly, sinners or the scornful? These refer to those who lead unrighteous lives, and who embrace all degrees of wickedness in their thoughts and actions. The psalmist advises against taking the counsel or advice of such wicked people. And in not taking their counsel, we would have no reason to stand together or sit with in discussion with them, lest we become part of their wicked plans or purposes. Our lives should be independent of such people. Instead, we should look to God’s Word for principles or rules to guide our lives.

Indeed, parents often advise their children not to mix with bad company at school or at play. They advise children not to “hang out” with bad influences. Children should not even walk in the paths where bad company is found; i.e. they should not go to where the bad influence go. Standing with them would be as if waiting for them, or to be desirous of associating with such bad company. So, a piece of advice to young people – don’t loiter or linger at places where the ungodly hang out no matter how attractive or fun these places may appear to be.

Thus, if we do not stand with the ungodly, we will not end up sitting with them, eating with them or enjoying ourselves with such persons. Neither would we end up being scornful as these – treating God with disrespect, and displaying behaviour or conduct which portrays a depraved character. The scornful lead lives which openly breaks God’s laws, and ridicules the believers who aspire to lead lives pleasing in God’s sight. They have no delight in God’s laws and thus bear no good fruit but evil deeds.

Benefits of delighting and meditating in the Law of the Lord

The psalmist challenges us to “delight in the law of God; and in his law doth he meditate day and night.” Those who know God’s Word will take pleasure in them, and make efforts to memorise His Word. The one who delights in God’s Word, will abide by it, and God’s Word becomes his rule in life. He reads it every day, and thinks about it at night. When he is unable to sleep, he reflects on God’s Word, once it is committed to memory. Those who treasure God’s Word would not be satisfied just listening to the Sunday message, but will be like the Berean Christians who received God’s Word with “all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so” (Acts 17:11).

The psalmist gives us the clear picture of one who keeps God’s Word to be like a “tree planted by the rivers of water, that bringeth forth his fruit in his season; his leaf also shall not wither; and whatsoever he doeth shall prosper” (verse 3). It is a picture of the vigour of a well-watered plant as compared to the ungodly person’s life, who is like a plant that is decayed in appearance, and whose leaves will fall like “chaff which the wind driveth away” (verse 4).

Verse three indeed contains promises for those who delight in God’s Word:

1. We will be happy people.
2. We will be fruitful people.
3. We will not fall when the winds of life blow at us.
4. We will prosper in whatever we do.

If God’s Word is our guide, and provides us the principles for life, then we will remain stable in all our ways. Others who do not abide by God’s Word will be tossed back and forth like the waves of the sea. If God’s Word is rooted strongly in our lives, then we have a strong foundation that will ensure we are not shaken when misfortune comes our way. God’s Holy Spirit will guide us, and bring all His Word to our remembrance.

A blessed or happy life is one in which the believer of God’s Word has good conscience. When others judge him or when the ungodly appear to “triumph” over him, his world does not collapse. If our lives have God’s Word for a firm foundation, then we will never be reduced into a state of confusion, or be reduced to being miserable just because all things do not seem to favour us. Truly, the true integrity of the righteous manifests itself when they are being tried by the most adverse circumstances.

Indeed, it is very difficult to acknowledge the truth of what is written in Psalm 1. But, the psalmist helps us remember that the greatest truth is that God is the ultimate Judge of the world. Consequently, it cannot but be well for us who follow His Word, and conversely, the wicked and ungodly must wait for their impending judgement which God reserves for the wicked and those who reject His Word.

Let us then remain strong even in distress: even when we lose our jobs or friends; when terminal illness overtakes our frail bodies or when we are separated from loved ones. Let us cling on to God’s promises that He will prosper those who delight in His Word. He will enable us to stand strong when the terrible winds of life blow at us. Let us be like the tree that is planted by the rivers of water – the living water who is Christ Jesus our Lord who said, “Whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst, but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life.” (Jn 4:14).

Pastor Bob Phee
(1st Printing 29 April 2012)

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