Happiness is a state of well-being that is characterized by relative permanence, by emotion ranging from mere contentment to deep and intense joy in living, and by a natural desire for it to continue. It thus differs from mere pleasure, which may come about simply through chance contact and stimulation.
The Hebrew word for “happy” is ʼeʹsher (Ps 40:4), while the related verb ʼa·sharʹ means “pronounce happy.” (Ge 30:13) These Hebrew terms are used with reference to humans. They often denote the result of positive action, such as acting with consideration toward the lowly one or being in fear of Jehovah. (Ps 41:1; 112:1) The Greek word rendered “happy” is ma·kaʹri·os.
The happinesses described in the Psalms and Proverbs, and particularly those spoken of by Jesus Christ in his Sermon on the Mount, are often termed “beatitudes” or “blessednesses.” However, “happiness” is a more exact rendering of the Bible terms used, for both Hebrew and Greek have distinct words for “bless” (Heb., ba·rakhʹ; Gr., eu·lo·geʹo). Furthermore, “blessed” carries the thought of the action of blessing, while “happy” brings to mind the state or condition that results from the blessing of God. Many modern versions render ʼa·sharʹ and ma·kaʹri·os as “happy,” “happiness.” (CK, JB, Ph, Ro, TEV, Yg, NW, and other versions) Ma·kaʹri·os is translated “happy” in KJ at Acts 26:2 and Romans 14:22.
Jehovah and Jesus Christ. Jehovah is “the happy God” and his Son Jesus Christ is called “the happy and only Potentate.” (1Ti 1:11; 6:15) In spite of the fact that Jehovah’s sovereignty has been challenged by the introduction of wickedness in both heaven and earth (see JEHOVAH), he is sure of the outworking of his purposes; nothing can be done beyond what his will permits. (Isa 46:10, 11; 55:10, 11) His long-suffering in permitting conditions that are within his power to change has been with a definite purpose or end in view; therefore he is happy. The apostle Paul writes: “God, although having the will to demonstrate his wrath and to make his power known, tolerated with much long-suffering vessels of wrath made fit for destruction, in order that he might make known the riches of his glory upon vessels of mercy, which he prepared beforehand for glory.”
Therefore, as the psalmist exclaims: “The glory of Jehovah will prove to be to time indefinite. Jehovah will rejoice in his works.” (Ps 104:31) He is the greatest and foremost Giver, never changing or letting his generosity and merciful, loving attitude be turned to bitterness because of ingratitude on the part of creatures. “Every good gift and every perfect present is from above, for it comes down from the Father of the celestial lights, and with him there is not a variation of the turning of the shadow.” (Jas 1:17) His Son, Jesus Christ, resting full confidence in his Father and always doing the things that please Him, is happy. (Joh 8:29) Even when undergoing trials and sufferings, Jesus had an inward joy.
What is the basis for real happiness?
All the happinesses promised in the Bible are contingent upon a right relationship with God; all of them are realized on the basis of love of God and faithful service to him. True happiness cannot be achieved apart from obedience to Jehovah. His blessing is essential for happiness, as one of his ‘good gifts’ and ‘perfect presents.’
Happiness does not find its source in amassing material wealth or power. Jesus said: “There is more happiness in giving than there is in receiving.” (Ac 20:35) The one who gives consideration to the lowly one, thereby enjoying the happiness of giving, is promised: “Jehovah himself will guard him and preserve him alive. He will be pronounced happy in the earth.” (Ps 41:1, 2) The things that contribute to true happiness are knowledge of Jehovah, wisdom from him, and even his correction and discipline. (Pr 2:6; 3:13, 18; Ps 94:12) The truly happy person trusts in Jehovah (Pr 16:20), delights in and walks in His law (Ps 1:1, 2; 112:1), observes justice (Ps 106:3), and fears God (Ps 128:1).
A Happy Nation. Happiness can be the lot of an entire nation or people if the nation truly follows Jehovah as its God and obeys his laws. (Ps 33:12; 144:15) The nation of Israel, after David’s righteous administration and during the time that King Solomon followed Jehovah’s law, was secure and happy, “like the grains of sand that are by the sea for multitude, eating and drinking and rejoicing.” (1Ki 4:20, 25; 10:8; 2Ch 9:7) This demonstrates the influence of righteous rule on a nation. (Compare Pr 29:2, 18.) Jesus made clear the requirement for national happiness to the nationalistic Jews who thought that because they were the fleshly descendants of Abraham and Jacob they were the ‘happy nation whose God is Jehovah.’ (Ps 33:12) He plainly told them that the Kingdom of God would be taken from them and “given to a nation producing its fruits.” (Mt 21:43) The apostle Peter later applied the term “nation” to the spiritual ones in union with Christ, saying: “You are ‘a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for special possession, that you should declare abroad the excellencies’ of the one that called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.”
Christ’s Counsel About Happiness. Jesus strikingly opened his Sermon on the Mount by enumerating nine happinesses, naming qualities that bring one into God’s favor, with the prospect of inheriting the Kingdom of the heavens. (Mt 5:1-12) It is notable in these happinesses that neither the condition in which a person finds himself because of time and unforeseen occurrence nor the purely humanitarian acts a person might perform bring the blessing of happiness. True happiness stems from those things that have to do with spirituality, the worship of God, and the fulfillment of God’s promises. For example, Jesus says: “Blessed are the poor in spirit . . . ” (KJ), or, more understandably rendered: “Happy are those conscious of their spiritual need, since the kingdom of the heavens belongs to them.” (Mt 5:3) He goes on to say: “Happy are those who mourn, since they will be comforted.” (Mt 5:4) It is evident that he does not have in mind all persons who mourn for any reason. The mourning would be because of their poor spiritual state, their sinful condition, and the distressing circumstances that have resulted from human sinfulness, as well as their hunger and thirst for righteousness. Such mourners would be observed and favored by God with his blessing of spiritual satisfaction, just as Jesus promises: “They will be filled.”
In the book of Revelation, Jesus Christ, through the angelic messenger, proclaims seven happinesses. (Re 1:3; 14:13; 16:15; 19:9; 20:6; 22:7; 22:14) The book declares, in its introduction: “Happy is he who reads aloud and those who hear the words of this prophecy, and who observe the things written in it” (Re 1:3), and in its conclusion says: “Happy are those who wash their robes, that the authority to go to the trees of life may be theirs and that they may gain entrance into the city [New Jerusalem] by its gates.”
Take Delight in Jehovah. In summary, it is clear that those achieving real happiness are the “holy nation” of God (1Pe 2:9), along with all others associated with that nation who serve and obey Jehovah from the heart. The psalmist says: “Rejoice in Jehovah, O you righteous ones, and give thanks to his holy memorial.” (Ps 97:12) The apostle Paul echoes this admonition in writing to the Christian congregation: “Always rejoice in the Lord. Once more I will say, Rejoice!” (Php 4:4) It is, therefore, not in one’s wealth or wisdom, nor in one’s accomplishments or might that a person can find happiness. It is in knowledge of Jehovah, who counsels: “Let not the wise man brag about himself because of his wisdom, and let not the mighty man brag about himself because of his mightiness. Let not the rich man brag about himself because of his riches. But let the one bragging about himself brag about himself because of this very thing, the having of insight and the having of knowledge of me, that I am Jehovah, the One exercising loving-kindness, justice and righteousness in the earth; for in these things I do take delight.”