What is true, lasting happiness and how can YOU have it?
Happiness is — a full tank of gas," "Happiness is — a winning home team," "Happiness is — finding a $5 bill." These and many similar definitions of happiness appear in novelty shops and on bumper stickers, greeting cards, T-shirts and the like. This article, however, is not about the kind of happiness consisting only of irregular, disrelated, unexpected happenings in life. It is not talking about temporary moments of elation that soon disappear, True happiness goes far deeper. It is a basic state of mind. It comes from a sense of well-being, contentment and inner peace. If a person is truly happy inside it doesn't matter whether or not his or her automobile's gas tank is full. It doesn't matter whether or not a $5 bill is found or whether the home team wins, These things can add to a person's happiness. But they do not in themselves constitute real, lasting happiness. The popular "Happiness is —" definitions describe moments of fleeting pleasure. The only happiness the average person ever knows consists of whatever brief periods of momentary satisfaction he or she manages to seize during a lifetime. Most of that lifetime is a thankless struggle to cope with anxiety, emptiness, boredom, despair, financial problems, health problems and personal problems. Now and then a precious happy moment comes along. But it is soon gone. And then the wearisome pursuit of happiness continues once more. This is not the way God wants it to be. He wants us to have rich, full, abundant lives (John 10:10), He wants us to be able to "Rejoice evermore" (I Thess. 5:16). The happiness God has, that which He offers to us, was meant to be with us constantly. It was meant to become a permanent part of us — of our personality and character. Here is what the Bible says makes for true happiness.
Do you know what makes God happy? Giving! Herbert W. Armstrong has for years pointed out that God's whole plan revolves around the principle of giving instead of getting. In the beginning God established the laws by which He lives. His government produces a way of life so perfect and so good that God's greatest desire is to share that way of life. He created us because He wants to give us the opportunity to live as He lives, to be in His Family. So desirous is He for us to be in His Kingdom that He has given that which was of most value to him — the life of Jesus Christ (John 3:16). Why? In order to make it possible for Him to give us eternal life, yes, but more — that He might be able to give us "all things" (Rom. 8:32)! All things — let your mind dwell on that for a moment! Yes, God gets His' pleasure — His thrills — from giving to us. Jesus said, "It is your Father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom" (Luke 12:32). And to enter into the Kingdom is to enter "into the joy of thy Lord" (Matt. 25:21, 23). God is the giving God. He is happy because "It is more happy [the Greek word makarios means "happy"] to give than to receive" (Acts 20:35). He wants us to be that way. Not that it is wrong to receive. But receiving for the self should not be our motivation. An unbreakable law is in motion. If a person seeks to give, he will receive automatically. However, if a person seeks only to receive, to get for himself, he will wind up losing everything. Solomon wrote about this law, "One man gives freely, yet grows all the richer; another withholds what he should give, and only suffers want" (Prov. 11:24, Revised Standard Version). "Give, and it shall be given unto you," said Jesus (Luke 6:38). It is extremely important for us to learn this essential key to happiness. That is why in the Christian life there are so many opportunities to give. A Christian is expected to give of himself in unselfish service to others. He is expected to give of his prayers, encouragement and financial support to the Work of God — a Work engaged in giving information about what God wants to give to mankind. "God loveth a cheerful giver" (II Cor. 9:7). He Himself is one.
As great as God's desire is to give us His manifold blessings, He cannot do so as long as our sins stand in the way. Most people do not really feel guilty, of anything because they don't realize they are guilty. Nevertheless they are. We all are or have been. "For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God" (Rom. 3:23). And sin cuts us off from God and His Spirit. Only when a person deeply understands this truth can he appreciate what a relief it is to be forgiven. "Blessed [and therefore happy] is he whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered" (Ps. 32:1). Through Christ's sacrifice our sins and iniquities are forgiven, never to be remembered again (Heb. 8:12). We are reconciled to God. That makes for happiness. Therefore we can "joy in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom we have now received the atonement" (Rom. 5:11).
Today governments and individuals alike are burdened with problems. They are groping around like so many blind men, desperately grasping for guidance. God's Word — the Bible — contains the answers. As David expressed it, "Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path" (Ps. 119:105). Exactly what the world needs today! Nevertheless, the world has rejected the light it needs so badly (John 3:19-20). Hence the mess it is in. But everyone who will love the light and who will live in harmony with God's Word will be blessed. God's laws are light. Obedience to them brings blessings — spiritually, mentally, physically and materially. And that makes for happiness. "Blessed are those... who walk in the law of the Lord" (Ps. 119:1, RSV). Obedience brings great peace of mind (verse 165). It prepares one to receive eternal life (Matt. 19:17). And that's happiness too! God's laws are a delight (Ps. 1:2). They exist for our good (Deut. 10:13). "The statutes of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart" (Ps. 19:8). "Blessed is everyone that... walketh in his ways.... happy shalt thou be, and it shall be well with thee" (Ps. 128:1-2).
One of the greatest keys to happiness is being thankful. We start off each day with a bonus — life — because, let's face it, nobody owes us life! But of even more value than life is knowing God and partaking of His salvation. Nothing else in life really matters. Other blessings may come and go. Wealth, material possessions, health — they all have wings. We should be grateful when we have them, serving God "with joyfulness, and with gladness of heart, for the abundance of all things" (Deut. 28:47). But when they are gone, we still have that which counts most: God, His Word, His Church, His Spirit. The apostle Paul realized this and admonished Christians to always give thanks (Eph. 5:20). "In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you" (I Thess. 5:18). Paul always found a lot to be grateful for. He could say, "I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content" (Phil. 4:11). Thankful contentment is happiness!
Christians have the promise of eternal life. This is a hope the people in the world do not have (Eph. 2:12). When we who are called begin to feel burdened down we can remember that the present distress is only a temporary condition. While other people's hearts are failing them for fear and worry, and while the world falls apart around us, we can lift up our heads because our redemption draws near (Luke 21:25-28). That's why the apostle Paul tells us to be "Rejoicing in hope" even though at the same time we may need to be "patient in tribulation" (Rom. 12:12). For a short season we may be "in heaviness through manifold temptations." Yet knowing we will be grateful throughout eternity for what these trials produce in us, we can "rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory" (I Pet. 1:6-9). The world can offer no thrill or happiness as exciting as anticipating the moment when our change will take place and real life will begin.
"Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee: because he trusteth in thee" (Isa. 26:3). Without inner peace there is no happiness. Worries and fears increasingly plague people today. Many are driven to seek relief through alcohol, drugs or suicide. Mental turmoil" anxious days, sleepless nights wear a person down, causing him to get old before his time, producing indigestion, ulcers and a whole host of psychosomatic diseases — perhaps even cancer. There is no need to bear such burdens. We have a God we can trust. We can take all our problems to Him. He has never failed. "Take delight in the Lord.... Commit your way to the Lord; trust in him, and he will ad" (Ps. 37:4-5, RSV). "And we know that all things work together for good to them that love [obey — John 14:15] God" (Rom. 8:28). Since the promise is that all things work together for good, there is nothing left to worry about, is there? Talk about freedom! Talk about peace of mind! "The righteous cry, and the Lord heareth, and delivereth them out of all their troubles" (Ps. 34:17). Jesus Christ proved-that He could overcome every obstacle. There is no problem in the world that He cannot solve for us. That is why He tells us, "Be of good cheer [in other words, be happy]; I have overcome the world" (John 16:33).
Having the Holy Spirit
Human beings. were created incomplete. There is a natural void, an empty place that needs to be filled. Oh, we are physically complete, but we are not spiritually complete. We Were born to need the Spirit of God. It is not possible to be truly, deeply, lastingly happy without the Holy Spirit. It is only when one has God's Spirit in him that he may have the fruits of that Spirit, among which are joy and peace (Gal. 5:22): "For the kingdom of God is... righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit" (Rom. 14:17). The happiness you have just been reading about is genuine and profound and lasting. It does not depend upon physical circumstances. Although there are additional ways in which the Bible describes true happiness, they may all be summed up in one definition: Happiness is — doing God's will. It really works. "If ye know these things, happy are ye if ye do them" (John 13:17)!