I am just starting Randy Alcorn’s book Happiness with my Friday morning men’s group and thought I would organize and preserve some of my thoughts that were useful to me and hope can be useful for you. The timing for this study is good because our family has been enduring a struggle that is beyond our ability to control. We are weary in our fight and sadness tends to creep in at times to overtake us. As I prepared for this study I asked myself the question, what is Happiness? Happiness is being content in your circumstances.
First be reminded God commands us to be happy. Paul encourages us in Philippians 4:4 Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice! Naturally we find some happiness in the things that God has created for us to enjoy. These include social relationships, hobbies, leisure activities, “stuff”, food, wine or the many things that we pursue to be content and experience happiness. In Deuteronomy 27:47-48 Moses tells us “Because you did not serve the Lord your God with joy and a glad heart, for the abundance of all things; therefore you shall serve your enemies whom the Lord will send against you, in hunger, in thirst in nakedness, and in the lack of all things; and He will put an iron yoke on your neck until He has destroyed you.” That is a pretty strong admonition. They had an abundance of all things, yet they were not glad in heart because they did not find their happiness in God Himself. When we pursue the created things we are never completely satisfied, but always end with wanting more. I am reminded of John D Rockefeller’s quote when asked how much is enough? and his reply, just a little more. Satan uses the good things God has created for our enjoyment to divert our satisfaction from God and deceive us in putting our trust in the created things for ultimate happiness. The end of this pursuit is at best discontent and often lead to tragedy and destruction. We misdirect our attention to the things God has provided for us to enjoy, but miss the ultimate source that supplies happiness. John Piper in his many books encourage us to find our ultimate happiness in God Himself. He famously quotes “God is most glorified when we are most satisfied in Him”. When we pursue God Himself for our satisfaction, enjoy a trusted relationship with Him, take pleasure in His creation with the knowledge that He created this all for our enjoyment, and trust that the trials we endure are for our benefit and His glory we find ultimate contentment or happiness.
Can we be happy in difficult circumstances? Paul goes on in chapter 4 of Philippians to give us the answer. Philippians 4:11-13 “Not that I speak from want, for I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am. I know how to get along with humble means, and I also know how to live in prosperity; in any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of being filled and and going hungry, both having abundance and suffering need. I can do all things through Him who strengthens me. This was something Paul “learned”. Paul learned and practiced through a lifetime of experiences to recognize God in every circumstance and to realize and to trust Him in and through every circumstance. For those that love God and trust in Him he uses the good, the difficult, and even tragic circumstances for good and His glory. For those that love God and trust in Him find the strength to do all things.
Ecclesiastes 7:14: When times are good, be happy; but when times are bad, consider this: God has made the one as well as the other.
During the past 5 years I have often questioned why God was allowing me to experience some of life’s challenges. As I trusted in Him, put my faith in Him and determined to be content I also have learned and can strongly testify that God is good and uses times of abundance and experiences of suffering need for His glory and I am content in Him. I currently reside in the midst of a very difficult and challenging circumstance that I do not understand, but through my life I have learned and do choose happiness and contentment in trusting Him.
I believe Joy is this deep seated contentment internalized to the point that we are saturated through and through. Joy overcomes sorrow that we will all endure. Joy is the result of traveling through and experiencing Gods great blessings, challenges and even tragic circumstances that result in learning and practicing to trust in Him and finding our satisfaction in Him alone. It is joy that overflows and is attractive to others. It is joy that testifies to our happiness in the midst of our circumstances and gives us the privilege to share with others the love for God and the satisfaction that He along can provide.
It is my prayer for you that you will also lean into God during the times of abundance and suffering need. It is my prayer that you will recognize His love for you in all of life’s circumstances of blessing and trials. It is my prayer that you will realize this truth in your life and let it saturate you through and through so that you can reflect His love back to Him and to reflect His love to others that have been entrusted to us. It is my prayer that you will choose and experience happiness and joy in all of life’s circumstances.
Psalm 68:3 – “But may the righteous be glad and rejoice before God; may they be happy and joyful.”