A monthly column by Michael Cassidy, evangelist, author, Christian leader and founder of African Enterprise whose ministry in Africa and the world has spanned more than 50 years.
Naturally everyone has their own definitions. They vary from “happiness is a friend who cares” to “happiness is jam with your bread and peanut butter.” The song therefore is right up to a point in observing that “happiness is different things to different people.”
Even so, happiness is a lot easier to talk or sing about than to find. Shortly before his death Somerset Maugham said: “I can’t remember a single happy moment.” Schopenhauer, the German philosopher, moaned that “life is a curse of endless craving and endless unhappiness.”
For most people the search for happiness is frustrating, because it’s fruitless.
This is not to say that happiness does not come now and then into most people’s lives, but its visits are for the most part tantalisingly brief, and we’re never quite sure what prompted its arrival or precipitated its withdrawal. All we know is that we clutch at it instinctively as it recedes, only to find it eluding our grasp like the morning mist.
By-product of putting first things first
As might be expected, the Bible has a lot to say about happiness, as is evident when one realises that the original Hebrew and Greek words for ‘blessed’ mean ‘happy’ or ‘very happy.’ The Bible’s main emphasis at this point is that happiness is NOT a goal or object to be sought in itself like you look for a new job or a lost handbag. It is rather a by-product of something else. It is in fact a by-product of putting first things first.
Happiness is the child of proper priorities. Seek God and you find happiness. Seek happiness without God, and you find neither. Said Jesus: Seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all other things shall be added unto you — Matthew 6:33.
The secret of happiness thus lies in those two words — seek FIRST…
So if you’ve tried everything else — money, status, sex, drink, drugs, education, comfort, etc. — and are still not happy, perhaps you are now ready to come back to Jesus Christ by the process of elimination, having found that nothing else works.
Happiness is trusting God.
Happiness is obeying God.
Biblical understanding of happiness
Let’s quickly look at three Biblical happinesses. First, happiness is being forgiven. Says the Psalmist: Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven — Psalm 32:1. In receiving Jesus Christ as Lord and Saviour we receive forgiveness. Lasting happiness and lasting forgiveness walk hand in hand.
Secondly, happiness is trusting in God. Happy is he who trusts in the Lord — Proverbs 16:20. To trust God in a warm personal relationship is to find happiness. And the more complete the trust, the more complete the happiness (Psalm 112:1).
Finally, happiness is obeying God. We see this most dramatically in Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount where He sets out the way man is to relate to God and to others. Happy, He says, is the man of humility (Matthew 5:3-5), of righteousness, (v 6), of mercy (v 7), of purity (v 8), of peace (v 9), and of patience (vs 10-11). In effect Jesus says: “Here are the laws for happy living. They are there to promote happiness, not restrict it. Live in harmony with the laws, and happiness is a by-product. Break the laws and they break you.”
Of course we know the principle from daily life. Destroy the Highway Code, and you have an accident. Defy the handbook and you ruin your car. Turn your back on the laws of happiness, and happiness by law must turn its back on you (Matthew 5).