What It Really Takes to Be Happy
JEHOVAH, “the happy God,” and Jesus Christ, “the happy and only Potentate,” know best of all what it takes to be happy. (1 Timothy 1:11; 6:15) Thus, it comes as no surprise that the key to happiness is found in God’s Word, the Bible.—Revelation 1:3; 22:7.
In his famous Sermon on the Mount, Jesus describes what it takes to be happy. He states: “Happy are those” who (1) are conscious of their spiritual need, (2) mourn, (3) are mild-tempered, (4) hunger and thirst for righteousness, (5) are merciful, (6) are pure in heart, (7) are peaceable, (8) are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, and (9) are reproached and persecuted for his sake.—Matthew 5:3-11.a
Are Jesus’ Statements Accurate?
The truthfulness of some of Jesus’ statements needs little explanation. Who will deny that a mild-tempered, merciful, and peaceable person motivated by a pure heart will be happier than the angry, belligerent, merciless person will be?
We might wonder, however, how people who hunger and thirst for righteousness or who mourn could be called happy. Such individuals have a realistic view of world conditions. They ‘sigh and groan over all the detestable things that are being done’ in our day. (Ezekiel 9:4) That in itself does not make them happy. However, when they learn of God’s purpose to bring righteous conditions to the earth and justice to the downtrodden, their joy knows no bounds.—Isaiah 11:4.
Love for righteousness also causes individuals to mourn over their own frequent failures to do what is right. They are thus conscious of their spiritual need. Such people are willing to look to God for guidance because they realize that he alone can help people to overcome their weaknesses.—Proverbs 16:3, 9; 20:24.
People who mourn, who hunger and thirst for righteousness, and who are conscious of their spiritual need are aware of the importance of having a good relationship with the Creator. A good relationship with humans contributes to happiness, but even more so does a good relationship with God. Yes, serious-minded lovers of what is right, who are willing to accept divine guidance, can truly be called happy.
However, you may find it hard to believe that someone who is persecuted and reproached could be happy. Yet, it must be true, since Jesus himself said so. Hence, how should his words be understood?
Persecuted but Happy—How Can That Be?
Note that Jesus did not say that reproach and persecution in themselves lead to happiness. He stipulated: “Happy are those who have been persecuted for righteousness’ sake, . . . when people reproach you and persecute you . . . for my sake.” (Matthew 5:10, 11) So happiness results only if a person suffers reproach because of being a follower of Christ and because of patterning his life after the righteous principles that Jesus taught.
This is illustrated by what happened to the early Christians. Members of the Sanhedrin, the Jewish high court, “summoned the apostles, flogged them, and ordered them to stop speaking upon the basis of Jesus’ name, and let them go.” How did the apostles react? “These, therefore, went their way from before the Sanhedrin, rejoicing because they had been counted worthy to be dishonored in behalf of his name. And every day in the temple and from house to house they continued without letup teaching and declaring the good news about the Christ, Jesus.”—Acts 5:40-42; 13:50-52.
The apostle Peter shed additional light on the connection between reproach and happiness. He wrote: “If you are being reproached for the name of Christ, you are happy, because the spirit of glory, even the spirit of God, is resting upon you.” (1 Peter 4:14) Yes, suffering as a Christian for doing what is right, even though such suffering is unpleasant, brings the happiness that comes from knowing that one receives God’s holy spirit. How is God’s spirit linked to happiness?
Works of the Flesh or Fruitage of the Spirit?
God’s holy spirit rests only upon those who obey God as ruler. (Acts 5:32) Jehovah does not give his spirit to those who practice “the works of the flesh.” Those works are “fornication, uncleanness, loose conduct, idolatry, practice of spiritism, enmities, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, contentions, divisions, sects, envies, drunken bouts, revelries, and things like these.” (Galatians 5:19-21) True, in today’s world “the works of the flesh” are much in evidence. Yet, those who practice them do not enjoy genuine and permanent happiness. Rather, doing those things ruins one’s good relationship with relatives, friends, and acquaintances. Moreover, God’s Word states that those who “practice such things will not inherit God’s kingdom.”
In contrast, God gives his spirit to those who cultivate “the fruitage of the spirit.” The qualities that make up this fruitage are “love, joy, peace, long-suffering, kindness, goodness, faith, mildness, self-control.” (Galatians 5:22, 23) When we display these qualities, we create the conditions for having peaceful relationships with others and with God, which result in true happiness. (See box.) More important, by showing love, kindness, goodness, and other godly qualities, we please Jehovah and have the happy hope of everlasting life in God’s new world of righteousness.
Happiness Is a Choice
When Wolfgang and Brigitte, a couple living in Germany, began studying the Bible in earnest, they possessed many of the material things that people feel are needed to be happy. They were young and healthy. They wore expensive clothes, lived in an attractively decorated home, and had a successful business. Much of their time was spent in the pursuit of more material things, but that did not give them genuine happiness. In time, though, Wolfgang and Brigitte made a crucial choice. They began to devote more time and effort to the pursuit of spiritual values and looked for ways to draw closer to Jehovah. Their choice soon led to a change in their attitude, which, in turn, moved them to simplify their life and to serve as pioneers, or full-time Kingdom evangelizers. Today, they serve as volunteers at the branch office of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Germany. In addition, they are learning an Asian language in order to assist foreigners to learn the truth found in God’s Word, the Bible.
Did this couple find true happiness? Wolfgang says: “Ever since we became more involved in pursuing spiritual things, we have been happier and have experienced more satisfaction. Serving Jehovah wholeheartedly has also strengthened our marriage. We had a happy marriage before, but we had obligations and interests that pulled us in different directions. Now we are unitedly pursuing the same goal.”
What Does It Take to Be Happy?
In a nutshell: Avoid “the works of the flesh,” and cultivate “the fruitage of [God’s] spirit.” To be happy, one needs to yearn to have a close relationship with God. A person who strives to attain this will fit Jesus’ description of a happy person.
Therefore, do not mistakenly conclude that happiness is beyond your reach. Granted, at present you may be lacking good health or you may even have problems in your marriage. Perhaps the rewards of parenthood have passed you by, or you may be struggling to find a successful career. Maybe your wallet is not so full as it used to be. Nevertheless, take courage; you have no reason to despair! God’s Kingdom rule will solve these problems and hundreds more. Indeed, soon Jehovah God will make good on his promise expressed by the psalmist: “Your kingship is a kingship for all times indefinite . . . You are opening your hand and satisfying the desire of every living thing.” (Psalm 145:13, 16) As millions of servants of Jehovah around the world can testify, keeping in mind this reassuring promise of Jehovah will greatly contribute to your happiness today.—Revelation 21:3.
a Each of these nine beatitudes, as they are commonly called, is introduced by the Greek word ma·kaʹri·oi. Instead of rendering this with “blessed,” as some translations do, the New World Translation and some other translations, such as The Jerusalem Bible and Today’s English Version, use the more accurate term “happy.”
[Box/Picture on page 6]
Factors That Contribute to Happiness
Love moves others to love you in return.
Joy gives you the strength to cope with challenges.
Peace helps you to keep your relationships free of strife.
Long-suffering enables you to stay happy even when you are under trial.
Kindness draws others to you.
Goodness on your part makes others respond when you need help.
Faith will assure you of God’s loving direction.
Mildness will bring you calmness of heart, mind, and body.
Self-control means that your mistakes will be fewer.
[Pictures on page 7]
To attain happiness, you need to satisfy your spiritual needs