Restore to me the joy of your salvation,
and sustain in me a willing spirit. – Psalm 51:12 (NRSV)
The word “restore” always brings this verse to my mind. I’ve used it countless times in prayers of confession and lament. What captures me is the joy of God’s salvation. This joy is in the present – not in some future eternity. It is God’s hope for us now. What greater joy could there be than living in the fullness of God’s salvation?
But this verse also troubles me. Restore suggests that we have been removed (or removed ourselves through our sin) from the joy of God’s salvation. Am I outside grace? Have I lost God’s salvation?
As I reflect on this verse today, I don’t believe it’s God’s salvation I need to be restored to, but rather, the joy of that salvation.
As I sit unrepentant in my sin, it’s hard to be joyful. I may be circumstantially content with myself. I may be happy. But I cannot be joyful. Joy requires peace, and peace is something rebellion does not allow.
This prayer of restoration is evoked by our memory of joy. The memory of being honest in God’s presence and being loved despite our shortcomings. The memory of the fullness of salvation and our willingness to receive it.
So, let us return to the joy that God has set before us. Let us allow our souls to be restored to peace. Let us willingly confess our rebellion and return to the embrace or our saving God.
Jesus, Lord of All, when we say, “Lord, Lord,” with our mouths but do not change our hearts:
Teach us wisdom in the secret of our heart.
Create in us a clean heart, O God, and put a new and right spirit within us.
Jesus, King of Glory, when we say, “All Glory to you,” with our mouths but do not change our lives:
Restore to us the joy of your salvation, and sustain in us a willing spirit.
For you call us to more than pious words or our best intention, to more than admiration or the remnants of our time.
Have mercy on us, O God, according to your steadfast love.
According to your abundant mercy, blot out our transgressions.
It’s Five Minute Friday: “Write for five minutes on the word of the week. This is meant to be a free write, which means: no editing, no over-thinking, no worrying about perfect grammar or punctuation. Just write.” You can find more posts on this week’s word here.