The actor and comedian Jim Carrey once said, “I hope everybody could get rich and famous and will have everything they ever dreamed of, so they will know that it’s not the answer.” While not a Christian, Carrey articulates in this quote something important about the human drive to gain material achievements and the lack of fulfillment that those achievements bring. We all have a habit of the “I’ll be happy when . . .” thinking that Carrey is chiding. I’ll be happy when I graduate. I’ll be happy when I get married. I’ll be happy when I get that job. I’ll be happy when I retire. The list of circumstances goes on and on because each time we reach our desired goal, we find ourselves patently unfulfilled and so move on to the next “I’ll be happy when . . .” scenario. Is there any way out of the vicious cycle?
David offers just such an off-ramp in Psalm 32:1 when he says, “Blessed is the one whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered.” In this short introduction to Psalm 32, David states two important things. First, you can have blessing in this life. Blessing is often thought of as an antiquated term reserved for liturgies and ceremonies. But blessing is the biblical answer to the “I’ll be happy when . . .” predicament. According to Psalm 32, that blessing can be confidently secured now.
Second, blessing is directly related to whether God has forgiven your sins. Blessedness isn’t a could-be-someday state but rather is the daily answer to the question, “Do I stand guilty or innocent before almighty God?” We can’t root “blessing” in material possessions or accomplishments, or we will be sorely disappointed. “Blessing” has everything to do with our relationship with God.
Paul adds a third crucial point when he quotes Psalm 32:1 in Romans 4:4–8, saying:
Now to the one who works, his wages are not counted as a gift but as his due. And to the one who does not work but believes in him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted as righteousness, just as David also speaks of the blessing of the one to whom God counts righteousness apart from works: “Blessed are those whose lawless deeds are forgiven, and whose sins are covered; blessed is the man against whom the Lord will not count his sin.”
Paul emphatically states that the blessing of forgiveness of sin cannot be earned by trying your hardest to live a good life but instead is freely given by God. You see, when we say, “I’ll be happy when . . . ,” we are looking forward to a future fulfilling event. Christians know that event has already happened when Jesus atoned for the sins of His people and rose again from the dead. The Christian doesn’t look forward to an unsecured blessing but rather backward to the blessing earned for us on the cross by Jesus. Christians can see through the emptiness of “I’ll be happy when . . .” thinking and instead root their happiness in their blessed Savior, Jesus, and His finished work.
Rev. Joe Holland is an associate editor for Ligonier Ministries and a teaching elder in the Presbyterian Church in America.