Be Happy, Be Forgiven


The Bible offers a recipe for happiness that acknowledges the propensity of men and women to sin. Stay happy by staying forgiven.

Psalm 32:1-2

The British poet Alfred, Lord Tennyson, probably wrote correctly (if unrealistically) when he said, “The happiness of a man in this life does not consist in the absence but in the mastery of his passions.” The complete mastery of one’s passions would undoubtedly lead to continual happiness because there would be no sin, which inevitably removes happiness. On this, Tennyson spoke correctly. But realistically, how helpful is this as a remedy for happiness? How many people do you know (including the one in the mirror) who have mastered their passions?

What is needed is a recipe for happiness that acknowledges the propensity of men and women to sin. The truth is, we don’t always master our passions. When we don’t, we hurt ourselves or others, become the owner of guilt and shame, and lose our joy. There we sit—guilty, ashamed, and unhappy. That’s when we need a definition of happiness that has enough muscle to remove guilt and shame and restore deep-seated joy. Fortunately, the Bible gives us such a definition as written by one who failed to master his own passions—and, happily, lived to write about it. Many Bible scholars believe that Psalm 32 was written by David in the aftermath of his horrendous, near year-long debacle with Bathsheba (2 Samuel 11). Failing to keep his passions in check, he took another man’s wife, then had the man killed. Not a recipe for happiness in the life of king, commoner, or Christian.

In spite of his actions, David was able to write, “Rejoice in the Lord . . . sing, all you who are upright in heart!” (Psalm 32:11). How did he get from horrendous sinner to happy saint? By being forgiven. Psalm 32 is an account of the transformation that takes place when we receive God’s forgiveness. David says that the person is “blessed” (“happy” or “contented” in Hebrew) whose transgressions are forgiven, and who gets that forgiveness by being honest with God.

If you are a person in perfect control of your passions, Psalm 32 isn't for you. If you’re like David and the rest of us, stay happy by staying forgiven.

God’s Promise to You: “Personal happiness is ultimately found in personal forgiveness.”

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