True Happiness Is Up to You
“Happy is the people whose God is Jehovah!”—Ps. 144:15.
1. Why should you think about what it is that makes you happy?
WHAT does it take to make you happy? To what extent is your happiness determined by conditions around you, by material things or by other people? Are God and the Bible involved in your finding happiness? Let us consider these matters, since all of us want happiness.
2, 3. (a) How is it that things or other people can contribute to your happiness? (b) What is God’s view of this?
2 Obviously, external things can contribute to our being happy, such as our enjoying ample tasty food in pleasant surroundings. We can especially appreciate this if in the past we have painfully experienced prolonged hunger. It is not contrary to God’s will for us to find a measure of happiness in good food. King Solomon wrote under divine inspiration:
“I have come to know that there is nothing better for them than to rejoice and to do good during one’s life; and also that every man should eat and indeed drink and see good for all his hard work. It is the gift of God.”—Eccl. 3:12, 13; compare Psalm 104:14, 15.
4 But you may well know that having material things and close associates does not assure one of genuine, lasting happiness. Some persons have the richest of food in abundance and surround themselves with modern luxuries; yet happiness eludes them. Two years before he died, multimillionaire oilman J. P. Getty observed: “Money doesn’t necessarily have any connection with happiness. Maybe with unhappiness.”a (1 Tim. 6:9, 10) Nor will money contribute to our having true happiness if those professing to care for us are persons whose companionship is being bought somehow.—Prov. 19:6.
5. Why is happiness something of a paradox?
5 It has been observed that, in a way, happiness is a great paradox. Though the word “happiness” may bring to mind pleasant conditions, it actually can grow in any soil, live under any conditions, defy any environment. Happiness is not so much what we have as what we are. That is the reason why many who live in luxury are not particularly happy, while some who have relatively little and whose lives are rather simple do find happiness. Furthermore, you may have met some hospitalized or handicapped persons who have a sunny disposition, a cheerful, happy outlook. True, they are not pleased with being ill or crippled and would like it to be otherwise. (Acts 3:1-8) Yet they find reason for happiness in life.
HAPPINESS AND YOUR SPIRITUAL NEED
6, 7. (a) Many have made what mistake in striving for happiness? (b) Can you think of specific examples of this?
6 Many persons envy the happy ones, wanting to be that way too. They may try to remedy their unhappiness through artificial means—drugs, heavy use of alcoholic beverages, illicit sex, indolence—and still wonder why happiness eludes them. Any thrills they get from such pursuits amount to a counterfeit happiness, which, under test, is as worthless as counterfeit money.
7 The evidence of long history and the experience of millions of persons alive right now prove that we cannot turn our backs on moral standards or principles and yet be lastingly happy. Those who have ‘come to be past all moral sense, giving themselves over to loose conduct to work uncleanness of every sort with greediness’ are not the happy ones. (Eph. 4:17-19; Rom. 13:13) Such a course, either immediately or later, brings additional sorrows, throwing up barriers on the road to happiness. Can you think of actual cases corroborating that? On the other hand, doing things God’s way—in accord with his moral standards—reduces life’s problems and so clears away roadblocks to our reaching happiness. Yet simply avoiding problems is not in itself a guarantee of our being happy. More is needed. We can be sure of that, for our Maker tells us so.
8, 9. (a) We have what fundamental need? (b) What did Jesus say on this?
8 We need to develop a relationship with the Creator, to learn his will and purposes and accept them ourselves. Yes, we need that. In his book Man, God and Magic, Dr. Ivar Lissner points out that a “fundamental difference between man and beast” is that “man is not content merely to sleep, eat and warm himself.” We humans have a “strange and inherent urge” that can be called “spirituality.” In fact, Dr. Lissner reports that ‘all the civilizations of mankind have been rooted in a quest for God.’—Acts 17:26-28.
9 Jesus acknowledged this fundamental urge, saying: “Happy are those conscious of their spiritual need,” or those who recognize and respond to their spiritual hunger. (Matt. 5:3) It is easy, though, to overlook that need. Even one who has long been involved with God might lose appreciation for how much happiness this relationship produces. He might see others with luxuries or some who are pursuing popular hobbies and forms of relaxation. So he could enviously feel, ‘Maybe I’m missing out.’ If he follows their course at the expense of time or interest devoted to his relationship with God, his life might, in a physical sense, seem to be more varied, more in line with current trends. But will he be truly happier? A hungry man, instead of eating, may go for a drive or watch a motion picture. Such activities could distract or amuse him. But will they satisfy his hunger?
10. How is happiness connected with your being aware of this need?
10 Vermont Royster, a former editor of The Wall Street Journal, commented on man’s technical advances. Then he added:
“Here is a curious thing. In the contemplation of man himself, of his dilemmas, of his place in this universe, we are little further along than when time began. We are still left with questions of who we are and why we and where we are going.”—“Science Digest.”
You can appreciate that those who are adrift, lacking answers, cannot feel completely content or happy. Yet, as we assign due importance to our spiritual need and seek understanding from God’s Word, we see where we fit in. Our life has more direction, more meaning, more likelihood of happiness.
11 In another way, too, we add to our happiness by recognizing our spiritual need and by having a relationship with God. We have already mentioned that accepting God’s moral standards helps us to avoid problems, but doing so goes beyond that. We actually need a reasonable, consistent set of values. God’s Word fills that need perfectly. And God’s standards are harmonious with our inherent sense of conscience. So as we comply with them we feel better, more comfortable, more at peace. (Ps. 1:1-4; Rom. 2:14, 15) We can even help our children toward happiness by sharing God’s standards with them. Dr. Robert Coles of Harvard University observed about youths:
‘They need discipline not only to tame their excesses of emotion but discipline also connected to stated and clarified moral values. They need something to believe in that is larger than their own appetites and urges. . . . They need a larger view of the world, a moral context, as it were—a faith that addresses itself to the meaning of this life we all live.’
12. What fundamental truth can you reach about your happiness?
12 It is fair to say, then, that true happiness is linked with recognizing our spiritual need and having a relationship with God, even as the Bible accurately indicated: “Happy is the able-bodied man that has put Jehovah as his trust,” that “takes refuge in him,” that is “in fear of Jehovah’ that walks “in the law of Jehovah,” and that with ‘all his heart keeps searching for God.’ (Ps. 40:4; 34:8; 112:1; 119:1, 2) God sincerely wants to extend his love to us and to come into a relationship with us. Are we consistently showing that we cherish having a relationship with him?—Rom. 8:38, 39.
HAPPINESS—FROM HEARING AND DOING
13. How did Jesus provide us with an insight about being happy?
13 Once a woman who heard Jesus teach called out: “Happy is the womb that carried you and the breasts that you sucked!” (Luke 11:27) Likely, she was aware that the Bible elevates motherhood, and apparently she thought that Mary was blessed or could especially be happy that her son Jesus was such an excellent, righteous teacher. But Jesus knew that there was a greater happiness than that of paternity or maternity, even maternity of the Messiah. He replied: “No, rather, Happy are those hearing the word of God and keeping it!”—Luke 11:28.
14, 15. “Hearing the word of God” involves what on your part?
14 Observe the emphasis Jesus put on being involved with—hearing or reading—“the word of God.” We are repeatedly assured in the Bible of the profit of being occupied with God’s Word. The first Psalm says about the ‘happy man’: “His delight is in the law of Jehovah, and in his law he reads in an undertone day and night.” (Ps. 1:1, 2) So we can ask, ‘Am I finding happiness from that source?’
15 The Scriptures are like a storehouse of happiness, for they enrich the mind and the heart. They enliven the spirit. They give hope. They point the way to a productive, pleasant life. They contain thoughts of God that we can reflect on at any time. They are the basis for true wisdom.—Compare Proverbs 3:13-18.
16. So how, by making adjustments, might you increase happiness?
16 There are so many publications that we could read—newspapers, newsmagazines, novels, history books, journals about the home or some craft. While some of these may be interesting and have their place, we can ask ourselves: ‘In the interest of my happiness, can I adjust my schedule or reading habits in order to read and enjoy God’s Word more?’ Yes, indeed, read it for sheer pleasure. Read some of it each day, according to a schedule if you like. Read the Bible in consecutive book order. Read the Scriptures with valuable Bible helps. Read from another translation occasionally, or in a different language if you are multilingual. Yes, more reading of God’s Word will be a step toward happiness.—Rev. 1:3.
17, 18. What is one aspect of ‘keeping the Word of God’ that can bring added happiness to you?
17 ‘Keeping the Word of God,’ Jesus said, is also involved in our being happy. Earlier we noted that this proves true in that we thus avoid problems. But it is also true from other standpoints.
18 Many persons today are predominantly concerned with “ME.” They are very egocentric in their efforts and concerns. However, are they truly happy? In contrast, the Word of God breathes the spirit of being interested in others, of giving, of helping other persons. We can see this exemplified in Jehovah himself, for he is the One who “loved the world so much that he gave his only-begotten Son, in order that everyone exercising faith in him might . . . have everlasting life.” Jehovah is called “the happy God.” (John 3:16; 1 Tim. 1:11) Similarly, “Christ did not please himself,” but died in our behalf.—Rom. 15:3; Gal. 1:3-5.
19-21. (a) How can you do this more fully? (b) Why do you think this will bring you more happiness?
19 Our giving can, and should, take many forms. But it does not have to be something elaborate and should not be something designed to impress. Jesus advised:
“When you spread a dinner or evening meal, do not call your friends or your brothers or your relatives or rich neighbors. Perhaps sometime they might also invite you in return and it would become a repayment to you. But when you spread a feast, invite poor people, crippled, lame, blind; and you will be happy, because they have nothing with which to repay you. For you will be repaid in the resurrection of the righteous ones.”—Luke 14:12-14.
20 That underscores the truth that happiness comes from giving. (Acts 20:35) In connection with a meal or otherwise, can you think of how you may apply Jesus’ advice? If you are a husband, a wife or other member of a family group, why not make it a point today to discuss how you can put Jesus’ suggestion into action? Then see how happy you will be.
21 One means of achieving such happiness is by your sharing with others Bible truths that can add to their happiness. Imagine how you will feel if you find a person who is truly hungering spiritually and you can help him to meet that need. (Acts 13:48, 52) True, it might take persistent effort to locate such a person and much patient care to help him to take in spiritual food from the Word of God. Yet he will find Jesus’ words to be true: “Happy are those hearing the word of God and keeping it!” (Luke 11:28; John 13:17) And you, too, will be happier for having given of yourself in making someone else happy.
HAPPINESS—A GOAL OR A RESULT?
22-24. (a) To what extent should happiness be your goal? (b) How, then, can you find true happiness? (Prov. 8:32-35)
22 We have noted that happiness is not principally a life of possessing, but of being and enjoying. It often requires that we adjust our sights so that we are satisfied with what we have, appreciating that “godly devotion along with self-sufficiency” is valuable. (1 Tim. 6:6) But to what extent should we make happiness a goal, a peak to scale?
23 Actually, what we have discussed about coming into a relationship with God and about giving should help us to see this: Happiness is not something that we should primarily pursue. It does not come by our making it an end in itself, but it is a by-product as we live before God, displaying his qualities and acting as he wants us to act. It is a fruit of love and of service. Happiness has been likened to a butterfly. If we enthusiastically run after it, trying to catch it, it will always elude us. When we put it out of mind and peacefully carry on according to God’s will, that “butterfly” will come and settle on our shoulder. —Rom. 12:9-21.
24 Consequently, it is true that to a large extent happiness is up to you. Do not eagerly pursue it as the major goal in life. Rather, recognize your spiritual need, your need to learn of and worship your Creator. Following his moral standards will protect you from many problems and will give your life needed stability. Work at having a close relationship with Jehovah God, for you will find contentment and joy in being like “the happy God.” Make more time in your life for ‘hearing the word of God.’ Then experience the reward of giving, helping others to know of Jehovah and his purposes. You certainly will find, as have millions of others today, that you will thus have gained the blessing of much happiness.—Ps. 146:5.
a Note also the comment by psychologist J. Brothers on page 6.