Listen: Chris Witts presents Morning Devotions.
Looking for happiness is such a popular theme that I want to touch on it again. It’s quite a fascinating topic. But what is it? How do you actually find happiness and keep it so you remain happy?
I think it’s a very confusing matter—many of us immediately think of lots of money or a mansion at Mosman. Or better food, or an exotic holiday somewhere sitting in the sun. But it’s much deeper than that. Surveys have revealed seven common things that people worldwide want, with the aim of being happy.
Let’s take a quick look—good health. This stands out as number one. And that makes sense. Who wants to contend with illness. We all want good health to enjoy life, because living with chronic illness will make you unhappy. Then comes marriage. It’s been shown that married people are usually happier than non-married people—especially if they have a good marriage and healthy family relationship. Of course there’s always exceptions.
Third is community—friendships with neighbours and those around us. And that makes sense too. We have to live close to others—and that can be good and not so good. The fourth happiness ingredient in the survey shows that donating, helping others with our time or with our money makes us happy. It gives us a sense of fulfilment reaching out to other people—it makes us feel good.
The fifth concept for happiness is religion. No surprise there. People who attend religious services are known to be happier than those who don’t—it’s a fact. What about having a meaningful life purpose? That’s on the list as well. How sad to see people floating along in life without any sense of purpose. No wonder they don’t feel happy.
And lastly, is the ability to have comfortable finances. Money is necessary of course—but having too much does not guarantee happiness as many stories have revealed. So that is an interesting survey. At whatever level you and I live, we somehow think that having more will make us happier. Not so—surveys have shown that the more stuff we buy, the more our emotional wellbeing takes a nose dive.
The Pursuit of Happiness
The pursuit and purchase of physical possessions will never fully satisfy our desire for happiness. It may result in temporary joy for some, but the happiness found in buying a new item rarely lasts longer than a few days. Researchers even have a phrase for this temporary fulfilment: retail therapy.
Often it’s the simple things in life that gives us the greater sense of happiness. A rock climber explains the sense of exhilaration as he scales the heights: “You are so involved in what you’re doing, you’re not thinking of yourself as separate from what you’re doing”. Or the mother who spends time with her young child reading a book together. Surely that’s true happiness. One mother says she loses touch with time and the rest of the world, and is so absorbed in this lovely act.
I like the author—the late Jesuit priest, Father John Powell—who said, “Happiness is not about what is going on outside of you. Happiness is an inside job.” I think that’s a terrific statement—happiness is an inside job. He wrote a book in 1989 with the same title. Many of us are raised to believe that happiness was related to people, events and outcomes.
And Our Relationship with God
In other words, my happiness had to come from being in a relationship, from having good things happen, and from having control over the good things happening. But life doesn’t operate like that—happiness is not something that happens to you. It has to do with your relationship with God and his Son Jesus Christ. Surrender yourself to Jesus and you will find happiness, almost by accident.
Surveys have constantly showed that religious or spiritual people tend to be happier people. But I would take it a step further and add that godly people are happy people. According to the Bible, if we seek to know God and discover his plan for our lives, we will find the happiness that has eluded us for so long. In other words, happiness does not come from seeking it, but from seeking him, because “Happy are the people whose God is the Lord!” (Psalm 144:15 NKJV).
God built us to turn to him and find our fulfilment, our contentment and our happiness in a relationship with him. C. S. Lewis put it this way:
God designed the human machine to run on himself. He himself is the fuel our spirits were designed to burn, or the food our spirits were designed to feed on. There is no other.
So the idea is to seek God, and happiness will follow.
The old time preacher and writer Henry Ward Beecher said, “The strength and the happiness of a man consists in finding out the way in which God is going, and going in that way, too.” Which way are you going today?