by Matt Meyer
Renae and I enjoy listening to a podcast by the president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, Albert Mohler, called “The Briefing”. In it Mohler analyzes current events and news from a Christian World View in tight, daily, 20 minute episodes.
This week, one of the news bits was linked to a New York Times article about a very popular psychology class on “happiness” offered at Yale University. This class was so popular in fact that more than a quarter ~1200 of the undergraduates signed up to take it. The content? Positive psychology, which included to be happier: more acts of kindness, more gratitude; and less procrastination. Good luck! Thankfully, the students could take it pass/fail.
Bible language does include something equivalent to “happiness”. The word “blessed” in the Beatitudes is close, meaning happiness connected to God’s favor. But more common and better defined is the Scriptural expectation of Joy. The difference between our culture’s definition of happiness and that of the Bible is all about the source.
Happiness in the context of the class at Yale and for the most part in our own lives is built on us controlling our environment — getting what we want “to be happy”. If we can just do the right things, be the right kind of person, think the right thoughts, get the right stuff, then, of course, we would be happy. But James (chapter 4) tells us that this just results in coveting, fighting and warring. In this sense, we are never satisfied and the result is just deepening sin.
But, Paul in Philippians (4:4) expects Christians to rejoice always. He told the Thessalonians (5:16-18) that rejoicing always was the will of God for us. Joy is the second fruit of the Spirit listed in Galatians (5:22). Since joy is anticipated to be with us all the time, it must be distinct from our circumstances. Even in the midst of His suffering, we are told in Hebrews 12 that Jesus was all the time looking to the Joy set before Him.
The world has NO solution for continual happiness. Certainly not for what we would consider a deeper, stronger river of peace, contentment, security and happiness that is contained in our understanding of joy. And what is the fount the source of this river? Psalm 32 reminds us that our Joy is based on our cleansing and reconciliation with God. This is truly experiencing God’s favor. Further, Psalm 34:8 tells us that our happiness is found in God as our refuge as our deliverer. Both of which are fully secure in Christ.
So, what has happened this last week to throw you off track? What missed expectation threw you into a slump? Depressed you? Worried you? Beat you down? Confess that they are all out of your control. But at the same time confess God as your refuge. Thank him for cleansing you of all your unbelief, envy and sulking.