(Published in 2002 by Thomas Nelson Publishers)
There is no doubting it – everyone wants to be happy! But so often happiness evades us, and this can be for many reasons. Maybe it is due to ill health, or circumstances that are difficult, or expectations that have not been met, or breakdown in a relationship or failure to accomplish a certain task well. The list of possibilities are endless!
Sometimes though, it’s really hard to discover just why we are unhappy. On the surface of things, all looks fine and it seems strange that being happy is so evasive. Sadly, some who would appear to have everything they need for a happy life (e.g. celebrities, wealthy business people, sports stars, etc.) surprise us one day by overdosing on drugs or ending up in rehabilitation with an alcohol problem, or having endless relationship breakdowns, or even committing suicide.
In our psalm today, David understood what it was to be unhappy, although he seemed initially to have no real understanding as to the cause of his unhappiness or maybe he was in complete denial. Listen to his words in verses 3-4:
He speaks of his inner life being devastated. He continues that his life was filled with frustration, irrepressible anguish, and misery. He said that the pain never let up and his strength was sapped, his inner life had dried up like a spiritual drought within his soul. (TPT).
I don’t think there was any doubt that David was not a happy man!
Most commentators would put this psalm into the context of David’s life when he committed adultery with Bathsheba and followed this up by endeavouring to hide his sin by eventually having her husband, Uriah, killed in battle (2 Samuel 11-12).
When we read this story, it appears that there was a time period after Uriah’s death when David tried to live as if nothing seriously wrong had happened. Ever tried to do that? Not an easy thing to do! Particularly when you are the only one in denial!
Blaiklock comments on verse 3 when David says, “There was a time when I wouldn’t admit what a sinner I was.” (LB). He says, “This verse is an insight into the silent months after David [committed] murder and adultery, in which David appeared insensitive and beyond realization of the enormity of his sin…hostile people murmured their resentment and their discontent…The leader no longer led…He usurped arbitrary rights, and failed to realize the fragility of such hypocrisy.” (#37)
And the consequences, other than the dramatic effect it had upon his role as King as well as all his relationships, was to make him one very miserable individual.
Listen again to David’s words:
3 When I kept silent,
my bones wasted away
through my groaning all day long.
4 For day and night
your hand was heavy on me;
my strength was sapped
as in the heat of summer. (NIV)
This psalm was a favourite of St Augustine (354 – 430 AD) who once said, “The beginning of wisdom is to know yourself a sinner.”
The Apostle John gives some great advice in his first letter:
8 If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. 9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. 10 If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word is not in us. (1 John 1:8-10)
When I was 18 I was totally unaware of these truths. I had not arrived at the place of “wisdom” that Augustine refers to. Strangely though, prior to that year, I had some fairly high ideals, despite having mainly been influenced by some really bad role models. But, once I moved out into the world of work, money, friends, girls, etc. then my ideals began to crumble fairly fast. Initially I justified some of my activities by telling myself that “everyone did it!” (and it was not as if I had committed adultery or murdered anyone!). So slowly I began to accept the things I was doing as “normal” and certainly not something to have any sort of conscience about.
Until 3 months before my 19th birthday when I began to read that Book! It was simply called “Good News for Modern Man” and was an easy reading English version of the New Testament. I had picked it up in a friend’s library. And as I read it things began to change. My “seared conscience” (1 Timothy 4:2) began to once again make me feel uncomfortable with the sort of activities I was involved in. I began to feel very dissatisfied with my life and desired much more, although unaware of what that exactly was. And I, for the first time in my life, became conscious that there was a God and deep down I wanted to know Him, if that was possible.
The day I stopped hiding my sin from God (not that this is possible anyway!) was the day I discovered, like Augustine, that “The beginning of wisdom is to know yourself a sinner.” Then as John wrote in 1 John 1:9, I confessed my sin, my rebellion, my self-centredness to God, committing my life to Jesus, and experienced the happiness of knowing the forgiveness of sins and finding myself in a right relationship with God.
And this was David’s experience when, as he says at the beginning of this psalm:
1 Blessed [happy] is the one
whose transgressions are forgiven,
whose sins are covered.
2 Blessed [happy] is the one
whose sin the Lord does not count against them
and in whose spirit is no deceit.
Proverbs 28:13 adds:
13 Whoever conceals their sins does not prosper,
but the one who confesses and renounces them finds mercy.
I trust that this has been your experience and you too have found this, “The Secret of Happiness” (the title of a book by Billy Graham written in 1955). If not, I suggest that you stop pretending that you have no sin hindering your relationship with God, recognize sin for what it is and confess this sin to your Father in Heaven, who forgives, just as David describes:
5 Then I acknowledged my sin to you
and did not cover up my iniquity.
I said, “I will confess
my transgressions to the Lord.”
And you forgave
the guilt of my sin.
Remember John’s words:
8 If we say that we have no sin, we are only fooling ourselves and refusing to accept the truth. 9 But if we confess our sins to him, he can be depended on to forgive us and to cleanse us from every wrong. And it is perfectly proper for God to do this for us because Christ died to wash away our sins. (Living Bible).
If this has been in some way helpful to you, let me know. If you have further questions, I would be happy to try and answer them for you. (click on ‘leave a comment’ below)
Father, thank you for revealing to us that true happiness can only be found in a right relationship with you. Thank you that rather than living in denial concerning our sin, we need to confess all to you and because of what Jesus has done for us we can be assured of forgiveness. Hallelujah!