Happiness

     Happiness and Joy.  All of us want it.  Seems like few find it.  Even our Declaration of Independence  enshrines “pursuit of Happiness” as an unalienable right.   Everyone has a hunger for happiness.  Google lists over twenty thousand happiness titles.  Haven’t you ever thought “I just want to be happy?”  There is an urgency to it.  To use an earthly example, it’s like when you have to go to the bathroom everything else seems to fade in importance until that need is taken care of.   Most people experience God’s gift of happiness naturally as children; one study found that children laugh about 400 times daily (Happiness, Randy Alcorn, 4).  Like a moth to a flame we are drawn to whatever we think will make us happy.  This tendency can be dangerous, note the deadly efficiency of bug zappers.   However, God did make us and desires us to be happy and experience His deep joy.  In the Bible’s revelation the worldview presented is of a smiling, happy God in the starring role.  After each day of creation God would stop and declare that what He made was good.  I assume he was smiling when He said it.  Who can resist smiling at playful dolphins or adorable puppies?
     So in a world marked by brokenness and pain how do we find happiness?  Here are three keys. One, remember that happiness is a choice.  The apostle Paul makes this clear when he commands us to “Rejoice always” (1 Thessalonians 5:16).   Paul gives us one way to choose joy.  Be intentional about our focus.  He says, “ . . . whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things” (Philippians 4:8b).  I would encourage you to watch your media intake diligently.  Be deliberately out of balance in favor of the positive.  Yes, the book of Ecclesiastes tells us there is a time to mourn in life but it also tells us there is a time to dance and laugh.  Author Neil Pasricha tells us that “Happy people don’t have the best of everything.  They make the best of everything” (The Happiness Equation, 27)    
     Second, part of happiness is pleasure.  Embrace wholesome pleasure.  We laughed at our daughter who had never gone skiing and so the first time she went to the top of the hill she pushed off, tucked down and yelled Dive, Dive. Dive!  It was an exhilarating ride with an unfortunate landing at the end.  But as the day went on she got the hang of it.  In a typical week most of us experience many simple pleasures.    I have read that we have thousands of taste buds on our tongues and that they change out about every two weeks.  That’s a lot of effort from our Creator just to have the pleasure of various tastes when we eat.  Think of the pleasure of a hot shower or listening to your favorite song.  These basic pleasures are gifts from God that enhance our joy.   Paul writes about our God “who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment” (1 Timothy 6:17b).  Savor simple pleasures.
      Third, part of happiness is connection.  We are wired for it.  We need other people and ultimately God.  Author Neil Pasricha writes, “Today study after study shows that it is our social connections that are the single biggest driver of our happiness.”  (The Happiness Equation, 114).  When you ask people what brings them joy, most will answer my spouse, my kids, our friends.  These relationships matter.  In addition, the ultimate connection is with God.  I appreciate how the Westminster Shorter Catechism shares this idea by asking the question “What is the chief end of man?”  And the reply is “Man’s chief end is to glorify God and to enjoy Him forever.”  Our relationship with God is key to a happy life.  Author Ann Voskamp says “The authority of God made all of creation.  But it was the affection of God that made all His children” (The Greatest Gift, 12).  And some day if we are in Christ we will experience ultimate joy with God in heaven.  I’ll close with this advice:  seek God, eventually you’ll find joy.           
Pastor Derek Dickinson
Journey Christian Church