Blessed is the one whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered.
Several years ago, the BBC conducted a survey of some 65 countries in the world and reported on which were the most and least happy. When individuals were asked what contributed to their joy, there was no clear consensus. The path to happiness was elusive.
In the ESV, Psalm 32 begins with the word “blessed,” but “happy” may be the more evocative and more fitting translation. Indeed, the same Hebrew word that is used here is often translated into the Greek word for “happy” elsewhere, both in the Septuagint (the Greek translation of the Old Testament) and in the New Testament. The word is used at the beginning of the Sermon on the Mount, where Jesus began to speak to His followers by telling them, “Blessed [that is, happy] are the poor in spirit” (Matthew 5:3).
Many of us would like to be happier than we are. But how? Some think that if they could travel more, they would be content. Some think in more grandiose terms: for instance, that by establishing justice in their part of the world, they would be happier. Others reason there is joy to be found in appreciating the beauty of creation or exploring spirituality. Yet we are continually confronted by the fact that something spoils our ventures and settles like dust upon all our dreams. Happiness derived from these things is always brittle; it is easily broken and it cannot last. The chase after happiness or the attempt to hold on to happiness becomes a burden.
Our search for lasting happiness remains futile as long as we fail to look where the psalmist says it is fundamentally to be found: in a relationship with our Creator God, which begins with forgiveness. We might not think to look there, because it seems like an oxymoron that we would find happiness by first considering the seriousness of our transgressions and our need for forgiveness. But the Hebrew word for “forgiven” actually means “lifted” or “removed.” The happiness and peace we desire comes only when the burden of sin is taken away. And then we are free to enjoy all that life offers, without asking created things or people to bear the weight of being the source of our ultimate joy.
This truth was Augustine’s experience. He spent the first part of his life in an untrammeled commitment to indulgence. Then, after reading the Bible and meeting God in His word, he emerged from his haze, later writing, “O God, our hearts are restless until they find their rest in You.” Do you believe what Augustine believed? The basis for his statement is found in the opening verse of this psalm. You do not need to walk through life encumbered by sin and sorrow, because God has offered you forgiveness and a relationship with Him through Jesus. You do not need to chase after happiness the way the world does. When your burdens are lifted and you know that God knows the worst of you and loves you anyway, you experience phenomenal, lasting happiness.
1 Michael Bond, “The Pursuit of Happiness,” New Scientist, October 4, 2003, https://www.newscientist.com/article/mg18024155-100-the-pursuit-of-happiness/. Accessed April 13, 2021.
2 Confessions 1.1.
Devotional material is taken from the Truth For Life daily devotional by Alistair Begg,