Did you know that not once in God’s Word are we instructed to seek out happiness?
While searching for the perfect quote to accompany this highly-anticipated second installment of my “Happiness Is…” series (Hahaha! You’re laughing with me, right?), I came across an article in which the author asserts that the pursuit of happiness does not line up with God’s instructions for our lives.¹ “Hunh!” I thought to myself as I was reading the article, “Could this really be?” I decided to do some digging into God’s Word on my own. What I found is enlightening.
Throughout the Bible, we are instructed to seek out many virtues and qualities in life. Some of these treasures to be sought are wisdom (James 1:5), understanding (Proverbs 4:7), peace (Psalm 34:14), good (Amos 5:14), righteousness (1 Timothy 6:11) and humility (Zephaniah 2:3). This list is certainly not exhaustive for the Bible is filled with instructions for living a godly life. Nowhere, however, could I find one direct instruction to seek out happiness.
What does that mean for us? Is God not concerned with our happiness?
Well, let’s not jump to conclusions. First, let’s take a look at the Biblical view of happiness and the source of that happiness.
So, what does God’s Word say about happiness?
In Part One of my “Happiness is…” series, I discussed our desperate pursuit of the objects of our happiness and the fleeting pleasures these objects or people bring. This temporary happiness comes and goes with our ever-changing moods and circumstances. If this type of happiness is all there is, we are doomed for disappointment. The good news is this fickle emotion is not true happiness as revealed in the pages of God’s Word.
The Bible speaks volumes about happiness. There is passage after passage that addresses our joy, especially in the Psalms and Proverbs. Here are a few: (Note that depending on the version you are reading, you may not find the word “happy”; often, you will find the word “blessed”.)
Happy is the man who finds wisdom, and the man who gains understanding.
Proverbs 3:13 (NKJV)
And now, O sons, listen to me: blessed are those who keep my ways.
Proverbs 8:32 (ESV)
He who despises his neighbor sins; but he who has mercy on the poor, happy is he.
Proverbs 14:21 (NKJV)
He who heeds the word wisely will find good, and whoever trusts in the Lord, happy is he.
Proverbs 16:20 (NKJV)
Happy is the man who is always reverent, but he who hardens his heart will fall into calamity.
Proverbs 28:14 (NKJV)
Happy are the people whose God is the Lord!
Psalm 144:15b (NKJV)
But the righteous shall be glad; they shall exult before God; they shall be jubilant with joy!
Psalm 68:3 (ESV)
What do you see in these verses?
At first glance, you may think that the “formula” for happiness in the Bible is the same as our own:
IF I DO THIS (obtain/do something, go somewhere, etc.), I’LL BE HAPPY.
IF I DO THIS (live righteously, trust God, give to the poor, etc.), I’LL BE HAPPY.
But a closer examination of God’s Word will reveal a stark difference between the two views. You see, in our formula, the goal is happiness. It is the object we seek in all that we do. In the Biblical view of true happiness, the goal is fellowship with the Heavenly Father, seeking His will for our lives and living accordingly. Happiness in this formula is not the goal but rather the by-product, a purposefully designed result of living a life that honors the Lord.
It seems Eleanor Roosevelt had it right!
You see, God is concerned with our happiness. He has a plan for each one of our lives, “plans to prosper [us] and not harm [us], plans to give [us] hope and a future.” (Jeremiah 29:11) And “the hope of the righteous brings joy!” (Proverbs 10:28a)
Above all, God longs for all of us to have an intimate relationship with Him. He desires that we trust Him with our lives, that we embrace His love for us and then share that love with others. God loves to bless us and give us “good and perfect gifts” (James 1:17) but His priority for our lives is clear: We must seek Him first in all that we do.
But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.
Matthew 6:33 (NIV)
All these things will be given to you!
God is the Source of true happiness. He is the Giver of our joy. It is a joy that endures, a joy that is unexplainable and a joy unmatched by anything this world has to offer.
You make known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand.
Psalm 16:11 (NIV)
Though you have not seen Him, you love Him; and even though you do not see Him now, you believe in Him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the end result of your faith, the salvation of your souls.
1 Peter 1:8-9
Forget the chase of temporary pleasures. Who needs that drama! Follow the Source of true happiness and the Giver of everlasting joy!
Whew! We found it, my friend. But cling tightly to it for there’s someone out there who’s chomping at the bit to steal your joy. We’ll take a look at how to keep your joy in my next post.