Happiness: Are You Happy?
Are you happy?
The word ‘happiness’ is rooted in the same word as happen. So really, we are ‘happy’ when things ‘happen’ the way we want them to ‘happen.’ A deeper dive into the word reveals that the root ‘hap’ connotes a lucky occurrence. This is actually sad because, in a sense, our happiness is determined by events outside our control. Biblically, we are commanded to have joy (Philippians 4:4), but we are never commanded to be happy. Although I would love to contrast biblical happiness and joy, I will save that for another time.
The Wall Street Journal recently posted an article about American happiness and the results are intriguing for Christians. Aaron Zinter wrote for the WSJ on April 21st that only 12% of Americans were “very happy” (down 300% from just five years ago). This number should be shocking to all of us. The United States is still the foremost land of opportunity, yet only 1 out of 10 of us are ‘very happy.’ 6 out of 10 responded they were “pretty happy” and 3 out of 10 ranked themselves as experiencing the lowest level of happiness. What is ‘happening?’
The article includes three main values amongst the group with the highest level of happiness – and this is where it gets good. This group is twice as likely as the lowest group to believe marriage is important (regardless of marital status). They are also twice as likely to value community involvement (like churches). Lastly, more than two-thirds of them believe in God (as opposed to 42% in the lowest group.
Do You Believe in Marriage?
“Mawidge is what bwings us together today,” says the priest in The Princess Bride; and from this article, it appears he could not have been more correct. Of all the things Americans could identify that make them happy, marriage could be a surprise to some, but it shouldn’t be a surprise to Christians. God ordained marriage in Genesis 2:24 with Adam and Eve. This establishes the basis for all of society. In Ephesians 5:17-33, God instructs married men and women to care for each other’s needs as well as to put their spouse first. Jesus spoke about the sanctity of marriage multiple times (Matthew 19:1-12 being one of them) and taught clearly the importance of strong marriages. In Revelation, the church is referred to as the Bride of Christ so marriage is a picture of eternal life. In the biblical worldview, it is no wonder those committed to marriage are happier. People who believe in marriage believe in their families and in their communities.
Are You Involved in Community?
The second value, according to the WSJ article, which helps produce happiness is community involvement. Twice as many very happy people value being a part of something bigger than themselves as the most unhappy people. We can certainly discuss the social implications of being designed for relationships, but God expressly commanded us to be in community. In Hebrews 10:24-25 the writer states, “And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.” Notice that being in a Christian community means stirring up (literally provoking) others to do good works and this happens in local churches. Christians since they walked with Jesus have always met together in community to worship God and to love each other.
Do You Believe in God?
The last value from the article is a belief in God. To me, this was the least surprising. As people, we were created for something far greater than just earning money, amusing ourselves, or making it through another day. We were created for an eternal relationship with God and we will only be ‘happy’ as we pursue Him. Paul writes in Romans 1:19-20 that God has made Himself plain to see in our universe, however, our human desire to live by the truth inside of us rather than by actual truth makes Him harder and harder to find.
If I Had a Hammer…
Many of us have tried to drive a nail with something other than a hammer – a wrench, the handle of a screwdriver, a water bottle, a . . well, I’m sure you’ve been just as creative as I have. Although you can do it with another implement, it is not as effective, it is frustrating, and it usually ends with finding a hammer. Our happiness level is much like driving a nail. I can try to produce happiness using money, toys, experiences, or success, but until I seek to derive my happiness from God (which is what I am created to do), any happiness I enjoy is at best a placebo. It is not real happiness nor does it fulfill my true needs.
Are You Happy?
The Bible rarely uses the word happy. In the first five books, in fact, it is only used three times. Once in regards to men having a year off from military service once he is married, once to refer to the birth of a child, and once in relation to Israel being happy to be saved by God. Interestingly enough, once for marriage, once for community/family, and once for God. Your beliefs partially dictate your level of happiness, so, what do you believe?
In His love and service,
Scott Nandor, High School Principal