We all want to be happy (duh!). One of God's little reminders about the importance and the art of happiness came to me in the form of something we all talk about: the weather. In the months leading up to the Sadler's Alaska Challenge handcycling race, one of the things I was anticipating was a break from the summer heat in Tucson. Extended weather reports of between 55-65 degrees was sounding very good to me. When we actually arrived we were met by rain, and the first five days of racing was cold and wet. The weather became a source of frustration. Then, I returned home to my Tucson where I was met with triple-digit, 100 degree plus temperatures. So, again we had something to complain about. All of this reminded me of a simple, basic truth: happiness is a choice. Most people are generally as happy as they choose to be. My determination was whether it was hot or cold, wet or dry, God and life is good and I'm going to be happy! It also led me to some other important considerations about the subject of happiness that you might find helpful; unless, of course, you want to be miserable and are not interested at all in happiness!
Lesson #1: Nothing that comes from the outside can satisfy the soul inside. Real happiness is "heart-based." Much of God's lament for His creatures is because we're always looking for happiness in all the wrong places. Listen to (Jer.2:13) "For my people have done two evil things: They have forsaken me — the fountain of living water. And they have dug for themselves cracked cisterns that can hold no water at all!" (NLT) Most of this world's happiness revolves around having the right circumstances, an abundance of material possessions, and our fickle and unpredictable emotions. All of which turn out to be very poor foundations for experiencing true or lasting happiness. God reiterated this through the prophet Isaiah (Isa.55:1,2) "Ho! Every one who thirsts, come to the waters; and you who have no money come, buy and eat. Come, buy wine and milk without money and without cost. Why do you spend money for what is not bread, and your wages for what does not satisfy? Listen carefully to Me, and eat what is good, and delight yourself in abundance." (NASB) True happiness depends on the character within not externals. The Scottish poet Robert Burns wrote, If happiness hath not her seat And center in the breast We may be wise, or rich, or great But never can be blest.
Lesson #2: God Himself is the Source of true happiness. It might come as a bit of a shock to some people, but God is a happy God! (1Tim.1:11) says "According to the glorious gospel of the blessed (happy) God which was committed to my trust." (NKJV) Because of this fact, happiness is a measure of our relationship with God and our satisfaction in Him. David wrote and sang (Ps.16:11) "You will show me the path of life; in Your presence is fullness of joy; at Your right hand are pleasures forevermore." (NKJV) This is why John Piper said, "God is most glorified (in us) when we are the most satisfied in Him." One of the most eloquent testimonies to this comes from Malcolm Muggeridge who said, "I may, I suppose regard myself as a relatively successful man. People occasionally stare at me in the streets -- that's fame. I can fairly easily earn enough for admission to the higher slopes of the Internal Revenue -- that's success. Furnished with money and a little fame, I may partake of trendy diversions -- that's pleasure. It might happen that my writing will make a serious impact on our time -- that's fulfillment. Yet I say to you -- and I beg you to believe me -- multiply these tiny triumphs by a million, add them all together, and they are nothing -- less than nothing, measured against one draught of that living water Christ offers."
Lesson #3: Happiness is serious business. The greatest formula for happiness every invented was spoken by Jesus Christ in His famous Sermon on the Mount which began with an astounding series of principles of happiness known as "The Beatitudes." What is so significant is that happinesss is clearly one of the matters of first importance to the Lord and those who follow Him. In the language of heaven, the word He uses for true happiness is translated, "blessed." Some versions of the New Testament say, "O the happiness of....." It means to be approved by God. It carries the sense of His smile or approval of you, and is a word of love and affection. "Blessedness is deep, lasting, spiritual, and accessible, not circumstantial, tangible, emotional. Blessedness is serious business. Blessedness doesn't come from this world, but from the next. It is not from human resources, but divine." If you were to give a survey with the fill-in-the-blank question, "Happiness is ______" you would get a myriad of answers of the things people feel are the essentials to and for happiness. Jesus, however, tells us that true happiness is based on character and spiritual maturity. It has to do with who you are. In the end, happiness is serious business (not fluff) and in this context becomes a worthy goal.
Lesson #4: Happiness has transcendent roots and is the fruit of practice. One of the great curses of human nature is we are seldom satisfied and always prone to complain. The comprehensive and unqualified command that defies our thankless and complaining nature is (Phil.4:4) "Rejoice in the Lord always, and I again I say, rejoice." Paul is not writing this from the Cafe Roma as he sips expresso. He is writing from a Roman prison cell unsure of whether he woud live or die, and twice he commands, "rejoice in the Lord." There is a supernatural dimension here that is not based on circumstances and has no loopholes. He says, "always" which translated means always! This is not just talking about a smiley face but it is the fruit of a relationship with the Lord. He exhorts, "rejoice in the Lord." This capacity only comes from what the Lord has done in the past, what He's doing now, and the hope of what He will do in the future Just so that we wouldn't forget he repeats the command saying "again I say rejoice." So, beloved, happiness is a mindset that we must learn, practice and master. It is not just a fortunate state of mind that we drift into...it is a choice, a mindset. Blaise Pascal wrote, "All men seek happiness. This is without exception. Whatever different means they employ, they all tend to this end. The cause of some going to war, and of others avoiding it, is the same desire in both, attended with different views. The will never takes the least step but to this object. This is the motive of every action of every person, even of those who hang themselves." You owe it to yourself and to others around you to......BE HAPPY!