Finding Happiness In The New Year
Once a friend asked me a simple, yet haunting question. He asked, “Sam, are you happy?”
My impulse was to answer with nervous certainty, “Of course. Things are well. What do you mean? Yes, I’m happy.”
After he left, though, I sat in silence and began to wrestle with my insecurities that his snooping question stirred: “What does he mean, ‘Are you happy?’ What kind of question is that? Just who does he think he is anyway? He needs to mind his own business.”
Isn’t it funny that the one quality all humans seek - happiness - can also be such a disturbing topic to consider. This irony has its reasons.
First, we are the most privileged people to have ever lived. Our ancestors knew nothing of vacations, medical care, education, central air and heat, mobility, opportunity, safety, freedom, material wealth in the same ways we do. Even compared to most of the world today, we own more, know more, and experience more than most of them can dream.
Yet, studies repeatedly tell us that we are also the most medicated, anxious, bored, despairing, and self-pitying people group to have ever inhabited earth. Why are we that way?
The Bible says we are that way because we don’t know how to define happiness. In our personal dictionaries, happiness is when good things happen to us. In other words, we define happiness by circumstances, -- what we own, what we know, and what we experience.
But the Bible says true happiness — the kind we seem to never find — is found in our allegiances, not our circumstances.
Psalm 1 says, “Blessed (happy, fulfilled, satisfied) is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked, nor stand in the path of sinners, nor sit in the seat of mockers, BUT his delight is in the law of the LORD, and on his law, he meditates day and night. He is like a tree planted by streams of water which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither; whatever he does prospers.”
The happy (or Blessed) person challenges the things that shape his or her mind (what counsels me), his or her influences (who am I standing with), and her sense of belonging or purpose (with whom do I sit, or consider “my group"). You see the wicked, sinners, and mockers are not “bad people to avoid,” but ideas, values, and commitments that shape us, and are shaping us 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. They all define happiness by how life goes, how others regard you, how you regard yourself, how you get your way, how things work out; that is, circumstances.
But the Bible is clear throughout: Happiness will never be found in a pursuit of happiness; happiness will only be found in the pursuit of God.
Jesus said something similar in a lesson on worry and anxiety. Rather than offering tips to cure the circumstances of anxiety (which there are always many) he told listeners to, “Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness.”
So, do you want to be happy this year? Then stop pursuing happiness. You will never find it.
Do you want happy children? Stop trying to make them happy. You can’t do it.
Do you want a happier experience of work? Stop making happiness at work your priority.
Do you want a happy marriage? Stop making your spouse the center of your attention.
Do you want a happy experience of church or friends? Forget about it. They weren’t designed to provide it.
Rather, “meditate on the law of the Lord, day and night.” That is, repeat, make use of, and apply to your heart the gospel - that God has chosen you, Christ has redeemed you, and the Holy Spirit has taken up residence in you. That’s who you are.
And if you know who you are, “like a tree planted by streams of water,” then no circumstance - no fading leaf, no withering drought, no dry season, no peeling bark can ever completely undo you.
Happy New Year!
More in ReSTORY
June 27, 2017The Gospel Changes Everything
February 6, 2017True Spirituality: The Transforming Power of the Gospel
January 2, 2017Finding Happiness In The New Year