This past Memorial Day we had the opportunity to remember and honor the military personnel who died fighting to protect our rights, as declared in the Declaration of Independence; it proclaims “all Men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness.”
It also is the unofficial beginning of summer! A time for creating happy memories as we spend carefree moments with family and friends having picnics, catching fireflies, swimming, making ice cream, grilling, and so much more.
We all want to be happy. It is our right to pursue it and strive for it, but what exactly is real happiness?
We see examples of happiness in many of our favorite stories and songs. The Mirror of Erised in Harry Potter can show you your deepest heart’s desire. For Harry happiness is living with his father, mother, and other extended family—a happy scene that brings Harry peace for the moment. In The Sound of Music, Maria, played by Julie Andrews, teaches the von Trap children how she turns bad times into good by singing, “when I’m feeling sad, I simply remember my favorite things and then I don’t feel so bad.” Pharrell Williams also sings about happiness and says “clap along if you know what happiness is to you”.
So, what brings you happiness? As Christians, it is important to know what the Bible says about being happy.
Psalm 37:4 says, “Delight yourself in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart.” This verse teaches us that we are able to find happiness by delighting ourselves in the Lord. As we learn, follow, and obey Him He will then give us our heart’s desires. Therefore, our happiness can’t be the object of our desire where we seek happiness for the sake of happiness. It is when our focus is on knowing, loving, and following God we find real lasting happiness.
PT Barnum once said “the noblest art is to make someone happy!” However, the Bible teaches us we do not find lasting happiness through someone else because worldly happiness doesn’t last. It is only found through trusting God and His provision for your life. The happiness the Bible speaks of is a choice as 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 teaches, “rejoice always, pray without ceasing and give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.”
Think about Paul and the sustained happiness (or what he calls contentment) he speaks of when he says, “Rejoice in the Lord always…Do not be anxious about anything but…by prayer and petition with thanksgiving present your requests to God…and He will guard your hearts and minds.” (Phil 4: 1, 6-7) He goes on to say the secret to contentment is to lean into Jesus, for he says, “in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through Him who gives me strength.” (Phil 4:12-13)
It is easy to be happy when things are good, but that is not a sign of real happiness. Real happiness is a constant state of the heart whether or not things are good. What Paul teaches is that it is not people or our circumstances that allow us to be happy; it comes only by putting the Lord first in all situations as we rejoice in Him with thankful hearts.
I know when I’m sinful I am always putting my own needs first before what I know pleases God. And what pleases God is for us to accept and obey His son as our Lord and Savior. When we do, the Holy Spirit comes into our hearts and Jesus Christ’s spirit becomes our spirit. It is the spirit-filled life that can gives us the strength Paul refers to above.
The world teaches us to do what makes us happy BUT the Bible says do what makes God happy!
Whether your summer is filled with happy or unhappy circumstances the Bible teaches us it is your choice to choose happiness, or not.
Finding deep happiness takes time. To learn we must discipline ourselves to focus on God’s splendor, what He has done for us, and who we are in light of His mercy and grace. As we do, we develop habits of praying at all times for God’s will to be done and accepting it all with thankful hearts as God imparts His peace, the peace which passes all understanding, into our souls that brings lasting happiness.
How would life look differently if we all, more often than not, lived out these teachings, where like Paul we chose happiness and contentment in all situations over our own self-centered sinfulness!