I have been thinking a lot about inner peace and happiness lately. Psalm 128 says that everyone who “fears the Lord” will be happy. In the context of the rest of the passage, I think the Hebrew word Shalom is more helpful here. It’s more permanent than happiness. It means real peace, as well as some other aspects of true happiness that we should focus on. But first, what about fearing God?
I thought fearing God was a no brainer until I considered the alternatives. There are those who are caught in addiction. The only way out is to walk a twelve step program which includes these two steps; 1) Admitted to ourselves that we are powerless over our addiction, and 2) Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity. There are flaws in our character — dare I say sins? — that bind us to unhappiness. The only way out is to fear God and walk a path that is dependent upon our higher power.
The Hebrew word Shalom involves both inner and outer peace (see Psalm 128:6). Charity and justice are the pursuit of Shalom’s happiness through public service. Too often, however, the busy-ness of life forces us to lower our expectations. We seek for wholeness and settle for managed pain. We seek for God and settle for Likes on our Facebook page. We give up on real Shalom and attempt to grab fleeting happiness. God calls us back to the meaty things of life: compassion, mercy, justice, and being as generous as we can be to those in need.
Shalom and Psalm 128 also speak about the good life, having peace in our family and enough money to make it to the end of the month. We all struggle to pay the bills and keep our families secure. Our grandparents had a word for living peacefully within ones means. They called it providence and said it was a gift from God. Today, it is more fashionable to talk of luck. Our loss, for being lucky is not the same thing as being peaceful, living simply, or being honest with our soul.
Fearing God is not about making great sacrifices or attending church for hours on end. It is about walking our own recovery program, doing the good that we can do, and trusting in the providence of God.