How do we find happiness? The Bible has a few things to say about it!
Join Odalis for a few moments to talk about one key ingredient in living a joy-filled life. Take a moment to join other members of our community every 1st and 3rd Thursday at 8:30A.
Good morning, welcome to Faith Moments. My name is Odalis. I’m part of the pastoral team at CornerstoneSF. I’m so glad that you’re here and we have this time to spend together, to share, and to just listen to the Lord. It is always my hope that He’s meeting you in whatever it is you’re walking through and that we can learn together about His kindness and love for us. We’re going to spend just a few minutes together to talk today about how to be happy. I am not pretending to have all the answers. I certainly don’t. But I have one suggestion for us. One thing I’ve seen make a change and have a real effect in my life. I hope that you’ve seen it as well and that together we can pursue this one way of reorienting to find happiness. Before that let’s pray and then we’ll jump in.
Lord, we thank you for this day. We thank you for the promise of your presence, God, for your consistency, Lord, for the firm foundation that you give us in our lives. No matter the circumstances we face, no matter what the world looks like around us, you are the same yesterday, today, and always. In you, we have hope. Lord, we turn towards you and ask you to come, Holy Spirit, for you to speak, lord. We thank you for your word. We’re attentive to you. We pray these things, Jesus, in your name. Amen.
So are you happy? If you are pausing to take stock in your life, would you say that you’re happy? I hope the answer is yes. I also think it’s easy to look at different aspects of our lives, sort of the normal dailiness of it, the things we want to accomplish, or goals that we haven’t quite reached yet. It’s easy to look at these areas and feel unsettled, maybe like we’re not quite satisfied yet. Sort of that perspective of, “Yeah. Things are fine. Things are okay. Hopefully, sometimes they’re not. But generally speaking, things are fine, but they’d be better or I’d be happy if, blank happens. If I had, fill in your blank.” I guess before we do anything else, let’s pause to define this often elusive concept of happiness. The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines happiness as a state of wellbeing and contentment often associated with joy or a pleasurable or satisfying experience. It’s good all around. It means about what we expect it to mean. It’s rooted in what we experience and feeling good about it, essentially, right?
Very straightforward, nothing novel there about that definition. The scriptures talk a bit about happiness, but more than that, they sing of the power of joy. Joy is a fruit of the spirit, meaning something that the spirit, the holy spirit, works in us to produce as we pursue God. Joy in the morning, not because of anything that’s happened, but because it’s a day the Lord has made. Joy in the scripture, contrary to the dictionary’s definition, is not dependent on circumstance. Joy has more consistency, more power in any circumstance because it’s not dependent on the circumstances.
Let’s read a couple of verses that talk about joy. I will start with Philippians 4:4, “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I say, rejoice.” Emphasis on that word, always. Rejoice always. From James 1, “Count it all joy, my brothers and sisters, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And steadfastness has its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.” Count it all joy when you meet trials of various kinds, right? There’s this thing we come across in the scriptures often, which is, even in the difficult seasons when you’re in a trial, count it as joy. Look not just at your circumstance, but your overarching truth, the reality you live into because of what God is doing in your life.
From Psalm 118, “This is the day the Lord has made. Let us rejoice and be glad in it.” As a little side note, this is one of the first verses that I realized I had accidentally memorized. I was having a horrible morning. Just those mornings that for some reason nothing goes well. There’s nothing to be particularly upset about, but also, you’re just frustrated with the day. This verse popped into my head, “This is the day the Lord has made; rejoice and be glad in it.” It changed the tone of my day. Nothing changed, it was still a frustrating morning, but my state of being stopped being dependent on what was happening.
Last one, first Thessalonians, “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances.” There it is again, “for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” So the will of God in Christ Jesus for us to rejoice always. Pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances. So again, not dependent on circumstance. I’m not meaning to say that it ignores, minimizes, or belittles the hard things we walkthrough. Those are very real, and having being sober-minded, looking at things with the seriousness that they deserve, being mature in our approach to things, not reducing the depth of the pain that we walk through, right? That’s not what we’re talking about. It’s important to recognize, register, and process in a healthy way.
I guess what I’m trying to propose to us is that the two are not mutually exclusive. We can walk through difficult seasons and still find that our baseline is stable. It’s not dependent on things going well. Instead, it is dependent on the goodness of God, right? A quick verse to emphasize that the scriptures also don’t teach about minimizing hurtful, deep things that happen. We’ll read real quick, Romans 12:15, “Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep.” It’s this beautiful, simple illustration of the fact that when beautiful things happen, we should celebrate, that we should have joy. When things are painful or mournful, those breaking moments of pain, we acknowledge them. We weep with those who are weeping.
My whole suggestion here is that this joy we’re challenged to always have regardless of circumstance is what we’re talking about. Really at its core, a deep and resilient faith that supports us no matter what we face. It’s reorienting our state of being not around what happens as the definition of happiness essentially does, that’s going to come and go. It’s choosing joy, which is rooted in something deeper, something greater than ourselves, which is something that the Lord gives us. In order to have this kind of steady, stable, steadfast kind of life, and in order to be happy and joyful, the number one thing that we should do, and this isn’t just my idea, okay, I have some proof, is to choose gratitude. To give thanks in all circumstances. First Thessalonians, “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances.” Those are all tied together. Our joy, it’s not circumstantial. It’s rooted in this idea of turning from our situations in gratitude and giving thanks.
There’s research that points to this. I am certainly not well-read enough to give a ton of detail. Studies have shown that folks who practice keeping a gratitude journal showed that those who kept a journal were happier. They tended to exercise more and saw the doctor less often. Not just their internal state of being, but their physical state of being was healthier. In a sense, it reflected that kind of joy. This was a noted difference between those who kept journals, who were venting about things that bothered them.
Couples who expressed gratitude to each other, not only felt more content and satisfied in the relationship, but they also felt safer to address concerns and issues as they came up. Not only about supporting and bolstering the positive sides of the relationship, but also creating a healthy and stable enough environment to address the things that are not. It’s even been shown in neuroscience. The power of gratitude where gratitude practically rewrites our brains, making adolescents less likely to engage in bullying or suicide, and promoting feelings of self-worth. I don’t want us to minimize the reality of the power of giving thanks to God, especially to God. What science is showing now is something that the scriptures have talked about for centuries. What the Lord is working in us, even at this moment. When we turn our eyes off of ourselves and our stuff, and onto the Lord and choose to give Him thanks for who He is regardless of circumstance, it changes things.
I have a quick reading from my devotions. I’m reading one from Oswald Chambers who’s wonderful. He is challenging, but also accessible. I would encourage you to check him out if you’re wanting to go a little deeper in your faith. When he’s talking about the reality of joy, here’s what he says, “It is a wonderful thing to see a man or woman live in the light of something you cannot see. You can always tell when a person has an invisible standard. There is something that keeps them sweet, when from every other consideration, they ought to be sour. That is a mark of the Christian. They do not drift during times of peril. They have an anchor that holds them within the veil. When we know that a time is coming when all things shall be explained fully, it keeps our spirit filled with uncrushable joy.” He’s talking about when our eyes are not on our circumstances when we’re not looking for our happiness or our wellbeing on the things that happen around us, or even to ourselves.
Our eyes are off of ourselves onto God who is the one who gives us that sweetness when things should be sour. Gratitude is precisely how we do that. Now as I say all this, I know some of us struggle. I struggle with this. If I’m being critical, even on the words I’m saying right now, I’d say that this sounds a little bit naive. Certainly, when there are so many horrible, painful, and tragic things that happen in the world around us, how can we simply say, “Just give thanks?” But in a sense, that’s exactly my point and hope for us. In areas of life where we feel dissatisfied, give thanks because it changes the power we’re giving, the attention and energy we’re giving, the focus of our prayer, really, we’re praying at all times. We’re either praying about our worries or we’re praying into gratitude and into the Lord. Where our treasure is there, our heart will be also. So what are the things we’re giving our attention to? The dissatisfaction, the pain, the brokenness, the hurt.
Find healthy ways to turn off of pouring our hearts into that and onto God. Not minimizing the things, but finding ways to choose gratitude regardless. Our brains are literally changed because of it. Our minds, our hearts, our whole walks with the Lord are changed in this. The key to happiness is not going to be found in our circumstances. It’s going to be found in giving thanks to the one who is good no matter what. So in our time, just a closing prayer, I would love to pray a prayer of gratitude. As I do, I want to encourage you to think about your life and to find, even if it’s just one thing that you can give thanks for, to give thanks for it. You can drop it in the comments, or you can journal it out. Start just writing down one thing every day you’re grateful for. As we do, may the Lord, the giver of good gifts meet us, change us, and work in us. Let’s pray.
Father, God, we thank you for who you are. We thank you that you are present no matter what. In the most difficult of trials, and in the most beautiful of seasons, you don’t change. You are good Lord. We thank you that when we turn to you, we ask, seek, and knock at your door God, you respond. Lord, as we think about our own lives right now, we think of the things we’re grateful for. Whether it’s the sun shining outside, whether it’s the clothes on our back, the chair we’re seated in, the people who are in our homes, God, maybe it’s just even having the space, the minutes to spend time thinking about you right now.
Lord, we thank you. We thank you, Jesus. You are good no matter what, Lord. We ask for you to fill us with a sense of gratitude and help turn our hearts more towards gratitude that we would find our joy complete in you. Help us to live with this kind of light in us as Chambers said, that reflects such sweetness in us, even when things ought to be sour. You are good, God, and we choose you. Help us to choose you more each day. We pray these things, Jesus, in your good and beautiful, name. Amen.
May His joy be full in your life and in your heart. May He meet you in all of your circumstances and restore your joy. As you turn to Him in gratitude, may He reveal His heart of love, peace, and acceptance to you. See you next time. Thanks for joining