By: Gary L. Hutchens
Happiness, or its absence, is on the mind of a great many people. It is the subject of countless articles and books designed to educate people on how to be happy. It is subjective by nature, largely because it is based upon personal likes and pleasures that are subject to change at most any time. Ask twenty different people what makes them happy, and you’ll likely get twenty different answers, and those same twenty people may change their answers based upon what day of the week or time of day it is.
There seems to be no set standard for happiness. Give a child a neat new toy, and he’s instantly happy, but in a few days he becomes bored with that new toy; it no longer makes him happy. A young couple meet, date, fall in love and find themselves in the throes of happiness. They get married, contemplating a lifetime of happiness together. They can’t imagine how awful life would be without each other. Yet within a few years they find themselves unhappy in their relationship, at times even dreading having to be in each other’s company. What happened?
Why does happiness seem to be so elusive for so many people? Two suggestions are offered. First, most people don’t understand what true happiness really is. Lasting happiness is not primarily emotional. It is a state of mind. The apostle Paul wrote, “I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content” (Phlp. 4:11). Contentment is being satisfied and at peace- happy! He went on to say he had experienced life when things were going well and when times were hard. Whatever the condition, he had learned to be content. In his first letter to Timothy Paul instructed, “And having food and clothing, with these we shall be content” (1 Tim. 6:8).
The presence or lack of things, money and relationships does not determine real happiness. A person can be wealthy, possess everything wealth can buy, be a partner in all kinds of seemingly positive relationships and still be profoundly unhappy. Another person can live in a small apartment with minimal furnishings, sustain himself on a low-budget diet, have few friends but still have a happy outlook on life.
Real happiness is not primarily dependent upon externals. It begins within and is largely self-determined. Happiness that becomes a lasting way of life largely depends upon a person making up his mind to be happy.
Second, most people look for happiness in the wrong places. The greatest source of happiness is being in a right relationship with God. Over and over again Israel was admonished along this line (Deut. 33:29; Job 5:17; Ps. 144:15; 146:5; Prov. 16:20). Paul noted the same principle: “Now godliness with contentment is great gain” (1 Tim. 6:6). Unfortunately, most people seem to have not learned this basic truth.
Being right with God provides an anchor for the soul (Heb. 6:19). God is always there, He always cares, and the hope He offers is not fleeting. It does not change with culture, age or technology. It is eternal and incorruptible (1 Pet. 1:3-4). When a person is content in this life, and assured of eternal life, he can be truly happy…
Gary L. Hutchens