Part 1- Discovering True, Biblical Happiness
‘Blessed is the man unto whom the LORD imputeth not iniquity…’ Psalm 32:2
Until last week I wasn’t aware that a specified day in the year had been given the award of being the most ‘blue’. Apparently, it is the third Monday of January each year and this year, 2017, Monday 16th January, was the bluest of them all.
The whole concept of 'Blue Monday', according to one leading paper, was the product of a light hearted survey where various factors were all taken into consideration. The weather featured prominently (which obviously indicates it was a British survey). Debts and finances also came into the mix. Seeing the third week of January followed society’s general binge at Christmas it is not surprising it took the blame. But this year, being only a fistful of weeks old, was deemed the worst of them all. Why, we might ask? If you hadn’t already noticed celebrities have died in what seems to be for many an unreasonable number. According to these gloomy expert fears over ‘Brexit’ also couldn’t be ignored and then there was Trump, Donald Trump. President Trump.
One of the leading proponents of ‘Blue Monday’ holds happiness and confidence sessions in his area for organisations and companies whose employees feel the need to find such things. But can happiness be taught and subsequently learned? To the many who entertain no thought of the true and living God in their minds, it seems so. The implication then is that happiness is simply a matter of the right type of thinking. Positive outlooks will yield happy feelings. Admittedly, this may not be the approach of everyone. A recent survey revealed that Norway was one of the best places to live if a person is looking for contentment. They boast of good job prospects, comfortable housing and accommodation. Their crime rate is also very low. However, I’m sure it gets cold there as well so whether or not weather contributes to feeling blue - I don’t know. However the question is this: what type happiness should be foremost in our minds?
Do sincere Christians dispute a link between a form of happiness and comfortable surroundings? I don’t think they should. Surely any person will admit that if life is easier to manage then it is easier to experience happiness. Legitimate pleasures of life exist in the form of families and times of rest and relaxation. Many of us are blessed to have children and in Psalm 127:3 we know that ‘happy is the man that hath his quiver full of them’. I am always needing to remind myself of that verse when my arrows flying towards my legs covered in food. The children not the legs.
Interesting to note that the first reference to ‘happy’ in the Scriptures is in relation to a child. Leah, one of Jacob’s wives, irrespective of the setup within the home, knew that she was blessed when Asher came into her life. His name means ‘happy or happiness’ and notice what she said in Genesis 30:13, ‘Happy am I, for the daughters will call be blessed…’.
A simple study of happiness in the Bible reveals that it is a state and a condition not a way of thinking. ‘Blessedness’ we should call it. Happiness as it is considered in regard to spiritual matters is a state of soul and heart. Most importantly it is wrought by the Almighty and not the feeble efforts of self. It is neither temporal nor tied to the transient things of this world but it is bound up in the eternal, invisible things of God. It is one of the marvellous effects of being justified by faith alone in Christ alone.
Our interest in this should be overflowing with enthusiasm. Regrettably it is one of the great blights upon modern day professing Christianity that unhappiness, discontentment and depression of all kinds has descended upon it? We must strike a balance of course. A forced attempt at looking happy all of time is quite pointless. In fact it unscriptural. There will be always be a time to mourn just as there will be a time to rejoice. I have never bought into this way of thinking where in order to prove you are a child of God that a permeant smile must stretch across a face that is probably bowed down under the pressures of life. Similarly, manufactured gravity doesn’t count for very much. People see through it. God sees through it. A reverent, respectful, godly Christianity; one that finds expression through our individual characteristics, is surely the one to be followed after. Stormy waters still know stillness deep below the turbulent surfaces.
So, yes, happiness as it is Biblically revealed and discovered should be first on the menu of our lives in our present day. It is the study of this very thing that prompted me to dig deeper into God’s Word as to what we can know. Mankind’s eagerness to uncover the secret of happiness in life outside of the Gospel of God has landed him into all sorts of trouble and despair. How many have searched and searched yet never found? How many in their attempt to know what only God can give have found themselves frustrated by their findings simply because they leave him out of the equation? Is not confirmation of the words ‘the way of peace they know not’ (Isaiah 59:8, Romans 3:17) found all around us as multitudes, clutching their straws, embark upon this mission impossible: finding peace while rejecting the God of peace?
While the the Word of God as a living whole provides us with the answer to this discovery, it is my intention to take a journey through the various Psalms that allow us to see what and who the blessed or happy person is. Psalm 32 is not the first reference in order but it possibly is the most important. It brings the reader to the very core itself, the source of true, abiding happiness - Blessed is man unto whom the Lord imputeth not iniquity.
In ‘Happiness Part 2’ we shall see how it is intrinsically linked to our relationship with God.