When I looked up the meaning of happiness on an Internet dictionary it read the state of being happy which really told me nothing. Synonyms for happiness are a little more helpful. They are pleasure, contentment, satisfaction, merriment, gaiety, joy, jollity, glee, delight, good spirits, lightheartedness, well-being and enjoyment.
Maybe we can find the meaning of happiness in the writings of famous people like Freud who defined happiness as, “to love and to work.” Charles Schulz, creator of Charlie Brown, defined happiness as a warm puppy.
Gandhi was a little more philosophical, “happiness is when what you think, what you say, and what you do are in harmony.” Dale Carnegie believed happiness “doesn’t depend on any external conditions it is governed by our mental attitude.” Eleanor Roosevelt had an interesting view of happiness when she stated, “happiness is not a goal; it is a by-product.”
To be honest, I don’t think any of those definitions help much in defining happiness. They seem abstract and very subjective. Is happiness really a warm puppy? Let me ask a question, as Christians, how does our understanding of happiness relate to our situation in life?
Martin Seligman is considered the founder of positive psychology and he states in his theory of authentic happiness “that we make choices we think will make us feel good in the future.” Authentic happiness theory simply states our goal in life is to feel good and as a result we make choices in harmony with that desire.
But, is Seligman’s theory really true for Christians or do we simply get caught up in our own culture to such an extent that we absorb the values and views of our society? As a follower of Christ is my goal in life to feel good or should I have a deeper understanding of what it means to be a disciple?
Kim Eckert writing in Christianity Today puts things into perspective. “At the same time, as a Christian and a psychologist, I struggle with the foundational focus on feeling good as motivation for our behavior. Do we pray because happy people pray? Do we feed the poor or care for the widow because it makes us feel good? Even in Christian circles, numerous books and studies address the ties between our faith and our happiness. Yet, I hope that my spiritual life is not about feeling good, but rather about responding to God’s great love for us and for his creation.”
How about it? Is our spiritual life based around feeling good about the things we do or is it based upon our love relationship with God? What is most important to us, that we have a good life and everything goes well or that we have a trust in the goodness of God that regardless of what happens, we continue to believe?
None of us wants to be poor, sick or face family problems, but the reality of life is that life happens. How we relate to the crisis in our lives depends upon our relationship with God. If we think that happiness comes through having things and never facing trials, chances are we will spend a lot of our lives being unhappy. If happiness, however, depends upon our trust in the assurance that God loves us unconditionally, then we may be able to handle the down times much better than we otherwise would have.
Paul writes in Philippians 4:12: “I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.” For Paul contentment was to trust in God through the good times and the bad times.
Too many Christians have bought into the search for the feeling of happiness and forget that happiness often is only momentary. We want to gratify ourselves with quick pleasures and feel good experiences, but those experiences are only temporary. We are made for eternity and if we keep our eyes focused on the spiritual, happiness comes automatically.
God loves us and died for us that we might live forever. We are given this gift through the grace of God. When Jesus died on the cross He carried my sins far away and covered me with His righteousness. The Father accounts me righteous because of Jesus’ faithfulness and substitutionary sacrifice that brings forgiveness of sins. If we can’t be happy with that gift, then we can never find happiness.
* Take just a few minutes and go to http://thebeggardanced.com/nine-oclock-club/ for updates on persecution of Christians. Please pray for our brothers and sisters who are suffering for their faith in Christ, many times even unto death.