Hide Your face from my sins, and blot out all my iniquities. Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. Do not cast me away from Your presence, and do not take Your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of Your salvation, and uphold me by Your generous Spirit. (Psalm 51:9–12—NKJV)

For far too many people on this earth, happiness is a fleeting thing. Two very recent articles underline this problem. It came out recently that, though Facebook makes people feel connected, it does not make them feel happier. To the contrary, greater use predicts a decline in a person’s sense of well-being (life satisfaction decreased). Another article gathered evidence that the habitual cycle of depressed people, in pursuit of happiness by practicing “retail therapy,” often end up in a worse state with the addition of “buyer’s remorse.”

Many things militate against human happiness. Most people do not start life as cantankerous, miserly curmudgeons. Experiences carved upon a man by time, tragedy, treachery, and trial tend to beat down a person and rob him of what he calls happiness. What man calls happiness may in fact be something else. Might it be that innocence, a path free of obstacles, lacking nothing, and being free to pursue one’s own desires, is what the world calls happiness? If that is true happiness then why are so many Hollywood families in trouble?

Christians are not immune to the plight of every generation of sinful mankind since the days of Adam. Time and trouble works upon us and somewhere along the way we are afraid we have “lost our joy,” when in reality we may simply be mourning our loss of innocence. Some people believe that “ignorance is bliss.” I am not all that sure that what passes for “happiness” in our world is really happiness. Rather it is pursuit of pleasure while desiring to be free from consequences. Christians are sucked into its vortex like all the rest of our species. In this image-conscious world, happiness is devalued to nothing more than perception rather than reality, but God would have us think differently.

First, a dictionary definition is appropriate. To be happy is to have a general sense of pleasure and contentment (e.g., the expected birth of a child). Depending upon the intensity of the emotion and significance, other words may be used to further describe the happy state on a scale of increasing crescendo. To be glad is happiness which has been prompted by an event that elevates a person’s feelings to exult in that event (the child is being born). Joy seems to be the state of the gladdened heart (the child has arrived). To rejoice is indicative of that response of heart in delighting in the realization of the meaning of the event (you are proudly holding the child in your arms). We also use other words which describe a settled state of happiness such as cheerfulness, a steady display of optimism and a bright spirit, and joyous, like a season of the year or a person’s temperament.

Our text expresses the fact that David had “lost his joy” and that was through a sin of his own. His conscience badgered and convicted him. His heart sensed the justice of God’s condemnation and the distancing of fellowship that his sin imposed on his relationship with God. David’s prayer was that God would forgive and cleanse him (verse 9), fashion a clean heart (center of thinking, planning, and preparing to live life) and renew (create something new to replace the old) a steadfast spirit within him (the desire to be moral and clean on an enduring basis with no ambivalence) (verse 10), restoration of usefulness and fellowship (verse 11), and restoration (give back, cause to return) the joy of God’s deliverance (rejoicing in God’s help) while being sustained by a vigorously willing spirit (to help him keep the resolution of obedience) (verse 12).

There is a deep river of joy in the wide ocean of every believer’s life. Its current began to flow at the moment of salvation (Romans 14:17, Galatians 5:22) and its course and influence is unaffected by the storms that roil the surface and blast the frothy waves of the ocean of life. The believer is called away from the “pursuit of pleasurable happiness” to be “filled with the knowledge of His will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding; that you may walk worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing Him, being fruitful in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God, strengthened with all might, according to His glorious power, for all patience and longsuffering with joy” (Colossians 1:9–11). Later on in the same book (3:1–10) Paul instructs, “Set your affections on things above, not on things on the earth.” Jude 24 reminds believers that Christ will present each of us before His father with joy. Review Psalm 16:11, 30:5, 126:5; John 15:11, 16:24; Philippians 3:1, 4:4; and Hebrews 12:2. Ask God to increase your satisfaction in Him (happiness) and cheerfully use you for His abiding glory. Trust and obey.