All human beings seek happiness. Some find it, then lose it. Others are able to hold onto it. Still others believe that a life of joy and contentment is an impossible dream.
Many never attain the level of happiness they expect in their lives, resigning themselves to a mediocre life of “just getting by.” They take on the attitude that people are all just “putting in their time,” and that, with life’s many ups and downs, there are seemingly more downs. They pass their days surfing the Internet, traveling, or watching television and movies. Then, after giving up on the pursuit of happiness, they come to actually “enjoy” their sadness!
What causes happiness? Simply being satisfied in life? Or does it come through achieving success? Riches? A stable family life?
According to the U.S. Constitution, the pursuit of happiness is an unalienable right. If that is true, then why is lasting joy so hard to achieve?
Science has only recently begun to explore what brings happiness, including how to measure levels of it. One thing most agree on is this: To be happy, certain basic necessities must be in place, such as food, water, shelter, family, etc. Beyond this, many factors play a part—where one lives—whether one is married or single—if one has a large or small family—how much money one makes—their career—and health.
Some scientists and researchers propose that instead of one key element, happiness is comprised of a “cocktail” of different ingredients, and that these vary for everyone. (We will see later that this theory is false.)
In his book The Geography of Bliss, Eric Weiner found that Iceland and Switzerland were some of the happiest places on earth, with the Eastern European country of Moldova among the saddest.
What are some of the factors that make up a joy-filled life?
Health and career play a role in a person’s level of happiness. Research also reveals that the number of friends a person has is more important to his or her overall well-being than how much money he or she might possess.
In addition, marriage brings a level of contentment (of course, with a certain normal amount of stress) and satisfaction from sharing your life with someone special. Research shows that married people live longer—men by seven years, women by about four years.
Working toward goals with a purpose is also a key element of happiness. W. Beran Wolfe, a 20th century author, stated, “If you observe a really happy man you will find him building a boat, writing a symphony, educating his son, growing double dahlias in his garden. He will not be searching for happiness as if it were a collar button that has rolled under the radiator.”
There is much truth in this statement. Those who are active generally enjoy life much more than those who wait for life to come to them.
Religious books on finding one’s purpose in life, and becoming the person he or she always wanted to be, sell millions of copies to an audience genuinely seeking contentment.
Research shows that another cause of happiness is how much one gives to others. Recent studies revealed that those who spent their money on others were much happier than those who spent money on themselves.
But the all-important question many ask—and most assume they know the answer to—is this: “Does wealth bring happiness?”
Although some would find it hard to believe, the latest research shows that wealth is not as connected to being happy as one might think. Findings reveal that as one’s standard of living increases, happiness does not go up. In some cases, it even declines!
In a BBC report, Professor Daniel Kahneman, a psychologist at Princeton University, stated, “It’s a fundamental fact in happiness research…the standard of living has increased dramatically and happiness has increased not at all, and in some cases diminished slightly…There is a lot of evidence that being rich isn’t making us happier, at least in the Western world, so we clearly need something else.”
Why do citizens of the West, with their increasing amounts of wealth, lead such discontented lives? Why are they not able to obtain lasting happiness?
For one, people tend to adapt to material possessions and grow tired of them. Human beings also have a problem with making comparisons. We are satisfied with something we have (i.e., a car, house, spouse, etc.) until we see something someone else has that seems better. No lasting sense of well-being and contentment comes from material possessions. Materialism often distracts us from life’s important goals, and can hurt our contentment rather than help it.
If wealth and material possessions do not bring about true and lasting contentment and joy, then what does?
Billions around the world profess to be Christian, and turn to various forms of “Christianity” in search of life’s answers. They are either told that they must wait until the “afterlife” to achieve happiness—or they experience an emotional “high” through fervent religious experiences that quickly fades away. Few understand what the Bible teaches—that you can experience happiness in this lifetime and in the soon-coming kingdom of God. (To know more, read our booklet What Is the Kingdom of God?).
God’s Word holds the answers to all of life’s greatest questions.
Notice this verse in Proverbs, keeping in mind the principle of cause and effect: “He that keeps the law, happy is he” (Prov. 29:18). Let this verse sink in. If you keep God’s Law, the Bible reveals that you will be happy! As simple as this may seem, this is what your Bible states is the key to happiness!
Next, notice Jesus Christ’s words in John 13:17: “If you know these things, happy are you if you do them.” Here, He is speaking about keeping the Law of God.
The churches of this world teach that God’s Law is “done away” and portray it as a great burden—but the Bible states otherwise: “For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments: and His commandments are not grievous” (I John 5:3).
Also notice this passage found in the Psalms: “Blessed is every one that fears [obeys] the Lord; that walks in His ways. For you shall eat the labor of your hands: happy shall you be, and it shall be well with you. Your wife shall be as a fruitful vine by the sides of your house: your children like olive plants round about your table. Behold, that thus shall the man be blessed that fears the Lord” (Psa. 128:1-4). (Also see Psalm 146:5 and the last part of Proverbs 16:20.)
Keeping the laws of God—the key to being truly happy—is a way of life, which can be summed up in one word: give! It is the way of “give,” of outgoing concern for others, that leads to true and lasting joy, personal fulfillment and peace of mind. This involves diligently striving to keep God’s Law. It is far more rewarding to live a life devoted to giving, helping and sharing with others than to be self-centered and caught up in one’s own problems, cares and concerns.
Living the way of give, as opposed to the way of get, involves a number of different factors that make up a recipe involving family life, purpose, religion, contentment, health, career, etc. Keeping God’s holy, righteous law (Rom. 7:14) is the key factor—the all-important ingredient—that brings the joy all seek.
Here is why: “The statutes of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart: the commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes. The fear of the Lord is clean, enduring forever: the judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether. More to be desired are they than gold, yes, than much fine gold: sweeter also than honey and the honeycomb. Moreover by them is Your servant warned: and in keeping of them there is great reward” (Psa. 19:8-11).
The Bible reveals that it is possible to be truly happy. Happiness is the effect of obeying God and living according to His Word—the cause!
Do not wait for life’s circumstances to come together to provide you the perfect life you always dreamed of living. Take your happiness into your own hands, and begin living God’s Way!
If you want to lead a more interesting, full and happy life, read David C. Pack’s article “You Can Live the Abundant Life!”