by: Gary L. Hutchens
Are you happy? What would make you happy? There’s a lot of talk about happiness. The appearance is that a great many people are unhappy with their lives. While many tell us we need to be happy, we need to go out and find happiness, they seem rather shallow in their analysis of what happiness really is and how to be happy.
Probably the most emphatic statement that can be made of unhappiness is suicide. One would expect the teenage years to be among the happiest, most carefree times of life. Yet, amazingly, suicide is high on the list of causes of death among teens in our nation.
Why is happiness so elusive for so many, and where can it be found? Not where most people look for it! Our culture focuses on externals as the source for happiness. Clothes with the right brand names, a new car, a bigger flat screen television, a fancier home and many other material things are all supposed to make us happy. But those are just superficial things. Real happiness is not found in things.
Relationships are another external that are supposed to make one happy. Countless families have been destroyed due to a husband or wife feeling unhappy in their marriage. They believe that a new relationship will make them happy. Their home and family are broken up in the process, and untold repercussions are experienced by the children, forced to live without one of their parents. The unhappy parent justifies their actions because of their need to be happy. But depending on someone else to make you happy only leads to more unhappiness.
Real happiness is found within. It’s been said that happiness is a choice. It’s a mindset, a determination to be happy. Happiness should not be primarily dependent upon things or relationships. A person can be fundamentally happy in the face of disappointing, trying, even tragic circumstances. They may not be happy about those circumstances, but those circumstances do not rob them of their under-girding happiness.
True happiness is inseparably connected to contentment which also begins with a mindset. The apostle Paul said, “…I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content:” (Phlp. 4:11). Again, contentment is not dependent upon externals. At the same time, being content does not mean that a person will not try to improve his lot in life. It simply means that his emotional and psychological well being are not dictated by externals. A person can be content in difficult times and under difficult conditions. He knows who he is and what he’s about, and he is content in that understanding even though some present circumstances in his life may be unpleasant.
Contentment produces inner peace. A person who is content is typically at peace with himself. A faithful Christian has the best potential to be happy, because he’s found the peace that results from the contentment of being confident in his relationship with God through Christ. He’s a child of God, saved in Christ. He knows that God is there with him as he walks through life each day. He’s assured that, no matter what this life throws at him, he has an eternal home awaiting him in Heaven. No externals related to this world can take that from him. So he understands, because he experiences it daily, “the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding” (Phlp. 4:7). Contentment produces peace which opens the door to true happiness. Contentment, peace, happiness…
Gary L. Hutchens