The Good Life: A Reflection on Psalm 32, Pt. 1

It has been said that the greatest desire in the hearts of most people is to live life and be happy.  Many of the greatest minds in history have spent countless years of their lives trying to answer the question, “What is the good life?”  Of course, some said we should pursue the cardinal virtues of justice, fortitude, temperance, and prudence.  Other said the good life can be found if we pursue all kinds of pleasure with as much vigor as possible.  Then came the exact opposite: happiness is found by fleeing the world and living in isolation or seclusion and engaging in ascetic practices.

What about our own culture?  I did an experiment and typed in, “The Good Life” in Google.  Here’s what came up: Downtown Bar, restaurant, night club, and dancing.  But what was also interesting is the number of songs that have been written with the title, “The Good Life.”  It was astounding.  So I clicked on three and read the lyrics to their songs.  In each of the songs it was the same thing: the good life comes by drinking alcohol, partying, lavish vacations, and so on.  And then of course there’s the t-shirt that supposedly summarizes the good life, which says, “Sex, Drugs, and Rock n’ Roll.

After all these years of searching for the good life, that’s the best we’ve come up with.  After he had considered all this, here was C. S. Lewis’s conclusion:

“If we consider the unblushing promises of reward and the staggering nature of the rewards promised in the Gospels, it would seem that our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are halfhearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.” (The Weight of Glory)

What Lewis is getting at there is that as human beings, our fallen condition is seen, not so much in our desire for happiness, but in being oblivious as to what true happiness is!

In Psalm 32, David, inspired by the Holy Spirit, tells us what true happiness is.  He tells us that true happiness (or joy) comes by confessing your sins and receiving forgiveness from God.

We read countless stories in the Bible of people being declared forgiven.  But I agree with Mark Seifrid that David is “the most prominent of forgiven sinners in Scripture.”[1]   It is not by accident that David’s life-story is recorded for us in Scripture, because we see in David’s life a man who experienced much success and blessing but who also committed atrocious sins.

When we read of David’s life and see him committing adultery and then trying to cover it up by having Uriah killed, we’re likely to say, “Wait a minute here, that’s TMI; I like the picture of David as the sweet Psalmist of Israel writing poetry by the sea who’s the man after God’s own heart.”  But you know like I do that humans are far more complex than that.  The complexity of humanity is captured nicely by Shakespeare when Hamlet says, “What a piece of work is a man! How noble in reason, how infinite in faculties, in form and moving how express and admirable, in action how like an angel, in apprehension how like a god!”  Shakespeare goes on to describe how we are capable of such greatness, and yet at the same time such evil.  We come face to face with that truth in David’s life.

Stay tuned for tomorrow’s post where we’ll continue this study . . .


[1] Mark Seifrid, “Romans,” in Commentary on the New Testament Use of the Old Testament, eds. G. K. Beale and D. A. Carson (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2007), 624.

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