What does it take to be happy? Do we find happiness in our circumstances and the things we possess? Is happiness merely the result of our feelings, or is there something unwavering which produces happiness within us?
Recently, I sat with another pastor who I just met. We were sharing ministry stories, especially discussing our favorite authors and resources. The conversation moved to our sources of inspiration and we began to talk about what motivates us, not only for ministry, but for living the Christian life.
My new friend told me of someone he knew. This person had been through the fire in many ways and certainly had reason to be depressed and discouraged, yet I heard how infectious his joy was and about the impact his happiness had on others. My colleague said to me, “How many pastors do you know, who in their 40’s and 50’s became bitter because of the many wounds they took in ministry? Yet, here is a man who had every reason to feel bitter and he was full of the joy of Christ instead.”
Since that conversation, I continue to reflect on where real happiness comes from. Too many times it seems we connect our happiness with someone or something else. A challenge comes along and we become unhappy. Someone hurts us or speaks against us and we lose our joy. An unexpected event comes along and we throw away our happiness, exchanging it for fear, frustration and anger. Because we tie our happiness to changing and transitory things, our joy is tossed to and fro by every little wave that comes along.
Jesus said, “In this life you will have trouble.” (John 16:33) We should not be surprised by obstacles and opposition, nor should we lose heart in the face of these challenges. Rather, we should hold fast to Christ, celebrate his presence and believe in where his Spirit is leading us, for he also said, “take heart. I have overcome the world.” When our happiness is connected to God, the One who is the same yesterday, today and forever, our joy can be God’s joy and it can remain unwavering in the face of adversity.
One of my favorite verses comes from Psalm 34:19, “Many are the afflictions of the righteous, but the Lord delivers him out of them all.” What an amazing promise! It does not deny the reality of our human struggle, but reminds us that, in spite of our challenges, our hope is in the Lord. We may feel overwhelmed, but God is not. There is no terror or timidity in heaven today, no question of what to do. God is seated on the throne and speaking forth the creation of life.
What, then, does it take to be happy? Our answer is found, not in external things, but in an unwavering trust in the Lord of Life. We do not look to our circumstances to determine our attitude. We do not look to the opinions of others to determine the state of our soul. We look to Jesus, the Author and Perfector of our faith. With our soul at rest in him, we can find unspeakable joy.
Life is too short to be unhappy, especially when the joy of the Lord can be our strength. May our faith rise up and give us joy today as we hold fast to God and know that, in him, we will not be moved.