Restore the joy of my salvation: the prayer I too often overlook

Why do I sin? It’s a question which people have asked since the dawn of time as they aim to understand that natural bent toward stuff which is not quite right which exists in all of us from birth. And I suppose that, at some level, it’s an honest question: it just doesn’t make any sense that we fall into the same sin, over and over, expecting it to result in something that we know it’s never accomplished before. But that’s the thing. We do expect that, this time, the sin will bring happiness, fulfillment, excitement, success. And it probably does, for a moment. But then that moment passes, and what are we left with?

In Psalm 51, David is crying out to the Lord for forgiveness following the whole incident with Bathsheba and Uriah. For weeks, he had successfully hidden his sin from everyone else. He may have even been pretty satisfied with himself for handling the situation so… gracefully. But when Nathan the prophet showed up, put his finger in David’s chest, and called him on the carpet for something only God could have known, that whole bubble didn’t just pop. It exploded.

And now, confronted by the reality and magnitude of his own sin, whatever semblance of joy David had known since that moment when he first saw Bathsheba and resolved to sleep with her was gone.

Here’s the thing. Sin saps joy. It’s not profound, but it is ironic. You see, how often have I gone off and done something that I knew wasn’t quite right, expecting that it would give me something that would result in joy. But it never does. Ultimately, the thrill and excitement, happiness and sense of success are fleeting when it comes to sin, and I find myself ending up with less than I had before.

But there is a solution. David understood it, but I know that I often forget it. Or maybe, more accurately, I succumb to Satan’s next temptation: to think that my sin somehow permanently disqualifies me from experiencing joy.

And make no mistake: that is a temptation. And succumbing to it is just as sinful as the initial sin that robbed me of my joy.

Now, I know, that sounds silly, but look again at what David says in Psalm 51. He prays for God’s grace and mercy, acknowledges his guilt, asks to be purified, and then calls in verse 8, “Let me hear joy and gladness; let the bones You have crushed rejoice” (HCSB). And again, in verse 12, “Restore the joy of Your salvation to me” (HCSB).

David asked for his joy – the same joy which he had known when dancing before the ark in 2 Samuel 6 – to be restored. Not only that, but he actually expected this prayer to be answered! Consider verses 13-15: “Then I will teach the rebellious Your ways, and sinners will return to You. Save me from the guilt of bloodshed, God, the God of my salvation, and my tongue will sing of your righteousness. Lord, open my lips, and my mouth will declare Your praise” (HCSB, emphasis added). The words highlighted indicate a cause-effect situation. The chain is kicked off by the restoration of joy and granting of a willing spirit in verse 13, and the effect is that David will teach, sing, and declare. There is no sense of possibility here; only certainty. David has asked for his joy to be restored, and he fully expects God to answer so he can do all these things!

If I truly believe that all Scripture is God-breathed and useful, then I should take that as a precedent to be followed.

When I sin, I should – no, must – ask God to restore my joy and then expect it to be done, and yet, how often do I totally forget that little bit? I say, “Lord, I sinned. I’m sorry. Forgive me please.” And then I pick up the guilt and shame, the sense of inadequacy and failure, and all the rest of the garbage that Satan subtly slides in at my feet.

Well, no more.

O Lord, I know that I sin. I know that I fail You. But I also know that You forgive and that, more than anything, You want to restore my relationship with You, including the joy that I am supposed to have as Your son. Lord, open me up to the full measure of joy and gladness which You would have me have. Heal the brokenness of my sin. Restore the joy of my salvation, as You did David’s, and give me the same willing spirit so that I can draw sinners to You, sing with joy of Your righteousness, and declare Your praise day and night. Amen.


4 Responses to “Restore the joy of my salvation: the prayer I too often overlook”

  1. 1 Samantha Applewhite May 28, 2015 at 3:21 am

    Thanks, that really helps me! But all I have to do is ask Jesus? That helps because lately I haven’t been happy with my salvation, because I’m still doubting my salvation too. If you can help with the doubt too that’d be nice. Thanks.

  2. 2 jgeerdes May 28, 2015 at 4:21 am

    Samantha, the Catholics practice a rite commonly known as Confession in which a believer confesses their sin to a priest, and the priest offers absolution, which is essentially the assurance that the sin has been forgiven. During the Reformation, Protestants rejected this on the grounds that Jesus’ death and resurrection has torn the curtain so that believers now have direct access to God. But James did say, “Confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, so that you may be healed” (5:16 HCSB). There is something profound about confessing to someone – whether it be a pastor or Christian friend who knows the doctrines of grace – with a repentant heart, and hearing them say the words, “Your sin is forgiven.”

    Clearly, this is not something to be taken lightly. The person confessing must be earnest in their repentance. And the person offering absolution shouldn’t be some random person, or even someone who won’t hold your feet to the fire if you’re not serious. We certainly want to abide by the guidelines of Romans 6 (i.e., “Shall we continue to sin since we’re covered in grace? By no means!”). We want to be, as James called it, healed of the sin so that we can, like David, celebrate God’s righteousness with clean lips and hands, declare His praise, and teach (which, for the record, implies that you’re already doing it yourself) others to be obedient.

    I am not Catholic, but I absolutely recognize that one of my most sacred tasks as a pastor is to assure people that, if they are truly repentant, He is faithful and true to forgive.

    So Samantha, if you’re truly repentant, then please take this to heart: your sins are forgiven.

  3. 3 Walter taylor June 14, 2017 at 3:16 pm

    How do i get the Joy of my Lord’s salvation back

    • 4 jgeerdes June 14, 2017 at 6:53 pm

      Hey, Walter. I think there were several keys to David reclaiming the joy of salvation.

      First, he confessed. More specifically, he confessed to Nathan. I think there is benefit to confessing our sin not just to God, but also to a trusted person. Now, please note that Nathan was not just an average person. He was a prophet who had some personal standing with David prior to the Bathsheba incident. In 2 Sam 7, it was Nathan who advised David about gathering materials for the temple. So Nathan was a spiritual authority for David. Perhaps you could confess to your pastor or a friend with whom you are already in a covenant accountability relationship.

      Second, he repented. As far as we know, he did not commit adultery again. Now, there are some sins that we may struggle to cut off cold turkey (e.g., addictions), but we must first have that commitment: I will not do this again. We may slip up and fall, but we must be resolved in the moment of repentance to never do it again.

      Third, he asked for it. As discussed above, David prayed for God to restore the joy of his salvation.

      And fourth, he refused to reclaim the guilt and shame of his sin. Now, this is not to say that he didn’t take responsibility for the consequences of his actions. Indeed, David wept at length when the child was born in the hopes that God would relent. And when the child died, he went in and comforted Bathsheba. He cared for the rest of her life, and it was her son Solomon who eventually succeeded David on the throne. But he surrendered the guilt and shame that Satan tries so often to beat us over the head with. We sin. We ask for forgiveness. God grants that forgiveness, removing our sin as far as the east is from the west, and yet we allow Satan to poke us, reminding us that we’re not worthy, we’re not adequate, we’re *sinners*. I believe Paul had a similar experience in 2 Corinthians 12. God’s response to Paul is perfect for us as well: My grace is sufficient for [even] you.

      Walter, I know what it is to struggle with guilt and shame resulting from sin. But I also know that the fruit of the Spirit includes joy. It should be a natural product of our salvation and the subsequent indwelling of the Spirit. Therefore, if you are not experiencing it, ask for it! And trust that God will give it because He said He would.

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