Judge me, O God, and plead my cause against an ungodly nation: O deliver me from the deceitful and unjust man. For thou art the God of my strength: why dost thou cast me off? why go I mourning because of the oppression of the enemy? O send out thy light and thy truth: let them lead me; let them bring me unto thy holy hill, and to thy tabernacles. Then will I go unto the altar of God, unto God my exceeding joy: yea, upon the harp will I praise thee, O God my God.Why art thou cast down, O my soul? and why art thou disquieted within me? hope in God: for I shall yet praise him, who is the health of my countenance, and my God. - Psalm 43
Doesn't your heart just break for the psalmist here? He was having more than just a typical bad day. It sounds more like he had a bad life! Discouraged. Defeated. Oppressed. Yep, we are definitely reading the diary entry of one miserable person. However, in the midst of such a dark hour, we find another title for God: my exceeding joy.
Despite what many dictionaries and thesauruses say, the words "happiness" and "joy" do not mean the same thing. They are not interchangeable. Sure, on the surface they seem to be the same thing. Happy, joyful, in a good mood, free of sadness. But there is one significant contrast that makes all the difference in the world. Happiness is based on circumstances. The psalmist who wrote Psalm 43 was not happy. His circumstances were grim, and so was his attitude. Joy, on the other hand, is not dependent on our circumstances, but rather on the Lord. If we have Jesus in our hearts, then we have joy, and nothing that happens in our lives can change that.
In Hebrew, the phrase "exceeding joy" is "simchah giyl." Interestingly enough, both "Simchah" and "Giyl" mean "joy or joyful," so, in essence, the psalmist is saying, "God my joyful joy." I can think of no better place in the Bible for this name than right here in the midst of the psalmist's dark hour. Its placement here distinguishes real joy from mere happiness. Many things can make us happy, but only God can give us joy because He is joy Himself.
"Note the holy rapture with which [the psalmist] regards his Lord! He is not his joy alone, but his exceeding joy; not the fountain of joy, the giver of joy, or the maintainer of joy, but that joy itself." - Charles Spurgeon
Bad days will come. Trying circumstances will arise. Happiness will flee. But joy is here to stay. Didn't God promise He would never leave us nor forsake us? So if God is joy and He never leaves, that means joy is ever-present. No matter what life throws our way, we can have everlasting peace through God our Exceeding Joy!