Psalm 1 is less about a prescribed reality of life and more about a choice to make in life.
According to Psalm 1, those who do not follow the advice of the wicked are the blessed or happy people. Surely that does not mean those who love the Lord are never unhappy. As we are all learning more about mental health, we recognize someone can be happy but also not be. That’s part of the stigma we’ve needed to address. That a faith in God doesn’t automatically take away unhappy struggles.
Also, the psalmists says that the happy people of God are successful. Well, not merely successful, but “in all that they do, they prosper (Psalm 1:3). Does that mean people of God do not fail? That doesn’t sound reasonable, does it? In fact, that’s a harsh lesson for many people. You won’t always succeed and you won’t always win. Does prosper mean something other than what we assume? Perhaps. Will the happy person of God thrive, for example? Maybe. But doesn’t the ancient version of thriving differ from our modern sense? So, we still need to reconsider what that means.
It wouldn’t make sense to read Psalm 1 in a shallow way. That when you follow God you get what you want out of life. Although that is how many preachers offer faith. Shallow sells. Such a reading doesn’t do justice to the things we endure and suffer in life. It doesn’t even align with the rest of the psalms. Psalm 1 is about the choice to follow the way of God. It propels us to experience the full range of emotions of life.
Think of how many psalms you’ve read. Do you remember words about imposing enemies or being near death? There are prayers that wonder where God is right now. And even psalms that reveal some of the darkest feelings of vengeance and spite.
Those feelings don’t get ignored. We acknowledge them as a part of life. What Psalm 1 does is allow us the choice to follow the way of God through them. That by allowing God’s way to guide our hearts, we can journey through the pain and suffering and still live. Christians say even live abundantly.
And that is a greater joy and promise than simply thinking everything is supposed to work out my way.