“But his delight is in the law of the LORD, and on his law he meditates day and night. “ Psalm 1:2
Is true happiness attainable? The longer we live in this world, the more we are exposed to the harsh realities of life, leading many to a sense of utter desperation. Still, others go beyond despair to a state of cynicism. Both perspectives ultimately hold the view that true happiness is beyond grasp in this world.
The Bible addresses these two impressions with the assertion that yes, life can be tragic, but these ways of thinking leave out the most important factor: God. The Book of Psalms starts out with the words “Blessed (happy, fortunate, prosperous, enviable) is the man who…”. Therefore, it is possible for a person to attain happiness.
The first psalm shows the way. It starts by laying out the things one must avoid. What are these things?
First, do not walk in the counsel of the ungodly. If you want to be happy, the first thing you must do is to stop listening to the outlook of the world: that which disregards and excludes God, the view that is opposed to God. The counsel of the ungodly solicits the trust in one’s own knowledge and understanding. The word “ungodly” as translated implies a sense of restlessness; they must be restless because their knowledge is man’s knowledge, and therefore contingent and transitory. Consider science theories decades ago that have now been discarded and replaced; consider the changing whims of fashion: what is fashionable today may be considered ludicrous in a few years.
Second, do not stand in the way of sinners. This admonition requires little explanation. If you want to be happy, you must avoid the way of the world, the way of the sinner, the way he only lives to satisfy the flesh. This will never bring true happiness.
Third, do not sit in the seat of the scorners. These are people who hold everything that is holy in derision, people who laugh at God and religion and the sanctities of life, people who scoff at morality and decency.
The retrogression from walking, standing and sitting is clear in this first verse and illustrates the increasing grip of sin upon the soul. Another aspect of this is how it causes the finest things in a person to degenerate to a state of immobility, accomplishing and affecting nothing, just sitting and muttering out their own conceived cleverness. Scoffers and scorners are so far removed from happiness, with no hope, paralyzed by evil and sin.
The other side of the prescription for happiness is a positive instruction. Here is the secret of true happiness: it is that a man or woman ‘delights in the law of the Lord’, not in the wisdom of philosophers and thinkers, not in following the ungodly, but in the law of the Lord — the Bible. Here is everything we need, God’s way to happiness. But notice that those who are blessed delight in God’s law; they do not simply have an intellectual interest in it, or a religious compulsion to do so, but they have great pleasure in knowing it.
What makes a person delight in God’s Word? We cannot attain this ourselves; it is a process wherein God takes the first step in showing the way to true happiness. Amidst the tragedies of life, the desperation, the evil in this sinful world, God sent His Son, Jesus Christ, to bear the punishment for our sins, reconciling us to God, and making us heirs to eternal bliss. Our part is to acknowledge our sins and put our faith in Jesus, believe that He has paid the price for us. Once we believe and make Jesus the Lord of our lives, we become a new creation; we discover that we do indeed ‘delight in the law of the Lord’, we will lose our taste for the world and its temporal pleasures, we will desire to know more about God and His eternal truths.
Do you have this blessedness, this happiness? Do you delight in God and His Word? Do you take pleasure in meditating about the joys and glories of eternity? If so, then it does not matter what you experience in this world, you will continually be blessed, and nothing can take this happiness away from you.
* Reference: D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, “True Happiness”, Gwasg Bryntiron Press, Wales, UK, 1967, pp.1-27
*Photograph: Panoramic Sunset over St. Finian’s Bay by Jean Winters Olkonen