The Key to a Happy Life
|Image Source: Lidya Nada|
What is the key to a happy life? It is a question that has been debated among psychologists, religious leaders and friends from all walks of life. (If you have come here for the answer, I humbly apologize about the misleading title, but you won't find it here.)
So many people believe that they know a fool-proof way to experience a happy life.
One of the most common responses would be to become wealthy.
Some will claim that its all about having a healthy lifestyle.
Others will say it's about eating a lot of good food.
Some will argue for a Zen lifestyle full of yoga and meditation.
Others will debate that gaining plenty of knowledge and wisdom is the best way.
Still others will just tell you in Bobby McFerrin's famous words: "Don't worry, Be happy."
And if you ask most husbands they would say: "happy wife, happy life."
There are many different techniques that people try in order to live a happy life.
Some Christians will claim that the key to a happy life is to find your happiness in the Lord. After all, the prophet Nehemiah tells us that "the joy of the Lord is my strength" and the Psalmist writes that if we "take delight in the Lord, he will give us the desires of our heart."
While I'm sure this claim is made with good intentions, this approach is problematic in itself. For example, it is a terrible thing to say to someone battling with clinical depression. One of the worst things we can do is minimize a person's struggles and tell them to just get over it find their happiness in the Lord.
Don't get me wrong, I believe that there is much to be happy about in our walk with Christ and there is great wisdom to be taken from these words found in scripture, but we need to be wary about using them out of context.
Being a Christ-follower does not guarantee us a happy life. Quite the contrary actually. Christians can expect to experience much pain in their lives. The scriptures are full of stories of God's people struggling through their difficult lives. Up to 67 of the psalms are psalms of lament. In fact an entire book (lamentations) is found in the Old Testament filled with people expressing their grief and sorrow.
Does God want us to fake happiness during difficult times? I don't think so... Human beings in their very nature need to mourn, cry and express their emotions.
I don't believe that there is one secret formula to experience a happy life, but I do believe that it is possible to live a life filled with joy. So what is the difference?
I believe that there is a difference between being happy as the world understands it and being joyful as the biblical authors define it. I love this quote by psychologist Rachel Fearnley:
"Joy comes when you make peace with who you are, why you are and how you are, whereas happiness tends to be externally triggered and is based on other people, things, places, thoughts and events."
When we become comfortable in our knowledge of who we are in Christ; when we begin to see ourselves in the same light that God sees us; when we realize that we are made in the image of God - then we are able to live a joy-filled life, even in times of great hurt. It is once we come to these realizations that we can say together with the Apostle Paul:
"Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance."
- James 1:2-3: NIV