The quest for happiness seems endless. Many have made it their primary goal in life. In the search for happiness men have indulged every whim, desire, aim, passion, and pleasure. Yet, few appear to have achieved the happiness they desire. This quest is not new. Philosophers have attempted to discover the secret. Happiness has been defined in a number of ways: For example, as the greatest good for the greatest number; or the result of conquering basic fears; or as obtainable through virtue; or by the exercise of reason; or by suspending reality; or through the recognition and acceptance of nothingness. None of these approaches, however, have answered the question-what is the key to happiness?
The Encyclopedia of 7700 Illustrations gives us the following information: Voltaire, the famous French writer and infidel, wrote: “I wish I had never been born.” So happiness did not come by unbelief. Lord Byron had numerous love affairs, yet, he said: “The worm, the canker, and grief are mine alone.” Pleasure did not bring him happiness. On his deathbed Jay Gould, one of America’s richest, said: “I suppose I am the most miserable man on earth.” His wealth did not bring happiness. Disraeli, the famous British prime minister, wrote: “Youth is a mistake; manhood a struggle; old age regret.” Position and fame did not make him happy. Alexander the Great conquered the known world, yet wept in his tent because there were no more worlds to conquer. Military conquest did not make him happy.
So, what then is the key to happiness?
The Realization of Happiness
The dictionary defines happiness as wellbeing or contentment. This is certainly true in the long-range sense. Consider wellbeing. The short-range view could be defined as a state of joy, pleasure, goodness, and satisfaction. Regardless of the level of happiness one may achieve in life, the fact remains that it can last only for a lifetime, and man is incomplete without a relationship with God. Only a long-range fulfillment can be defined as true happiness, and there is much in the Bible that tells us how to obtain wellbeing.
On numerous occasions Moses told the ancient Israelites how to achieve it:
Thou shalt keep therefore his [God’s] statutes, and his commandments, which I command thee this day, that it may go well with thee, and with thy children after thee, and that thou mayest prolong thy days upon the earth, which the LORD thy God giveth thee, for ever. (Deut. 4:40)
Hear therefore, O Israel, and observe to do it; that it may be well with thee, and that ye may increase mightily, as the LORD God of thy fathers hath promised thee, in the land that floweth with milk and honey. (Deut. 6:3)
And thou shalt do that which is right and good in the sight of the LORD: that it may be well with thee, and that thou mayest go in and possess the good land which the LORD sware unto thy fathers. (Deut. 6:18)
Keep therefore the words of this covenant, and do them, that ye may prosper in all that ye do. (Deut. 29:9)
There are many such admonitions in the Bible. We are told that the realization of happiness can be achieved by a relationship with God and by obedience to His Way of Life.
Happiness is also defined as contentment. The Bible tells us that contentment is achieved by a reverence and respect for God’s Law. “Blessed are the undefiled in the way, who walk in the law of the LORD. Blessed are they that keep his testimonies, and that seek him with the whole heart” (Ps.119:1-2). The word “blessed” means happy. How is this accomplished? By walking in His law, keeping His testimonies, and seeking Him with one’s whole heart.
The 19th Psalm gives a marvelous description of how to achieve happiness and contentment:
The law of the LORD is perfect, converting the soul: the testimony of the LORD is sure, making wise the simple. The statutes of the LORD are right, rejoicing the heart: the commandment of the LORD is pure, enlightening the eyes. The fear of the LORD is clean, enduring for ever: the judgments of the LORD are true and righteous altogether. More to be desired are they than gold, yea, than much fine gold: sweeter also than honey and the honeycomb. Moreover by them is thy servant warned: and in keeping of them there is great reward. (Ps. 19:7-11)
The Realization of Contentment
Consider contentment. One of the great rewards for obedience and reverence for the Law of God is contentment and peace of mind. In addition to contentment and peace of mind, there is an additional largesse-a measure of physical enjoyment that God has made available for man.
Here is how it is described:
There is nothing better for a man, that that he should eat and drink, and that he should make his soul enjoy good in his labour. This also I saw, that it was from the hand of God. For who can eat, or who else can hasten hereunto, more than I? For God giveth to a man that is good in his sight wisdom, and knowledge, and joy: but to the sinner he giveth travail, to gather and to heap up, that he may give to him that is good before God. This also is vanity and vexation of spirit. (Eccl. 2:24-26)
I know that there is no good in them, but for a man to rejoice, and to do good in his life. And also that every man should eat and drink, and enjoy the good of all his labour, it is the gift of God. (Eccl. 3:12-13)
However, an overabundance of these physical amenities is not that beneficial. The Bible instructs: “Two things have I required of thee; deny me them not before I die: Remove far from me vanity and lies: give me neither poverty nor riches; feed me with food [allotted] for me: Lest I be full, and deny thee, and say, Who is the LORD? or lest I be poor, and steal, and take the name of my God in vain” (Prov. 30:7-9). So, in spite of the fact that the physical amenities of life are comforting and do remove a lot of stress and worry, the real contentment that counts is a matter of the mind. The Apostle Paul expressed it in this manner: “Not that I speak in respect of want: for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content” (Phil. 4:11).
Those who believe that contentment comes from wealth are often sadly disillusioned. In the end they find emptiness and disappointment, as we read in the comment by Jay Gould near the beginning of this article.
The Bible tells us:
And having food and raiment let us be therewith content. But they that will be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and hurtful lusts, which drown men in destruction and perdition. For the love of money is the root of all evil: which while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows. (1 Tim. 6:8-10)
Can those who follow God and keep His commandments expect to experience a good measure of happiness? Yes, indeed! Here is what the Bible tells us:
Happy is that people, that is in such a case: yea, happy is that people, whose God is the LORD. (Ps. 144:15)
Happy is he that hath the God of Jacob for his help, whose hope is in the LORD his God. (Ps. 146:5)
Where there is no vision, the people perish: but he that keepeth the law, happy is he. (Prov. 29:18)
Happy is the man that feareth [God] alway: but he that hardeneth his heart shall fall into mischief. (Prov. 28:14)
He that handleth a matter wisely shall find good: and whoso trusteth in the LORD, happy is he. (Prov. 16:20)
This happiness comes because of obedience to God’s spiritual law. God’s commandments warn us of the sorrow that results from disobedience. We may recall that David wrote: “Moreover by them is thy servant warned: and in keeping of them there is great reward” (Ps. 19:11). What is the result of disobedience? “But unto them that are contentious, and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, indignation and wrath, Tribulation and anguish, upon every soul of man that doeth evil, of the Jew first, and also of the Gentile” (Rom. 2:8-9).
Jesus told His disciples: “Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid” (John 14:27). “These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world” (John 16:33). “And now come I to thee; and these things I speak in the world, that they might have my joy fulfilled in themselves” (John 17:13). Perhaps Paul summarizes the happiness that results from obedience to God when he wrote: “Be [anxious] for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. And the peace of God, which [surpasses] all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus” (Phil. 4:6-7).
The Dilemma of This Life
By virtue of being a human being, man is faced with endless problems. God made man a free moral agent, with complete freedom to make his own ethical choices. Man, however, has never been given the right to decide right from wrong. God decided that long ago. But man is given the right to choose and follow the right or to choose and follow the wrong. As a whole, mankind has chosen to follow the wrong. What is the consequence? “Yet man is born unto trouble, as the sparks fly upward” (Job 5:7). “Man that is born of a woman is of few days, and full of trouble” (Job 14:1). Troubles happen to both the righteous and the unrighteous. Christians are specifically told: ” . . . We must through much tribulation enter into the kingdom of God” (Acts 14:22). However, there is one vast difference between the righteous and the unrighteous. By means of the Holy Spirit, the righteous are given the help to obey God (John 14:16).
Man in his natural state is hostile toward God. “For they that are after the flesh do mind the things of the flesh; but they that are after the Spirit the things of the Spirit. For to be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace. Because the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be. So then they that are in the flesh cannot please God” (Rom. 8:5-8). This is why we read: “O that there were such an heart in them, that they would fear me, and keep all my commandments always, that it might be well with them, and with their children for ever!” (Deut. 5:29). The Psalmist wrote: “O that my ways were directed to keep thy statutes!” (Ps. 119:5). The Lord reminded Israel: “Thus saith the LORD, thy Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel; I am the LORD thy God which teacheth thee to profit, which leadeth thee by the way that thou shouldest go. O that thou hadst hearkened to my commandments! then had thy peace been as a river, and thy righteousness as the waves of the sea” (Isa. 48:17-18).
Man must learn by suffering-experiencing the anguish and pain that results from sin. The Psalmist wrote: “Before I was afflicted I went astray: but now have I kept thy word” (Ps. 119:67). Disobedience to God’s Law is the cause of much of the world’s unhappiness. Happiness and contentment come from obedience. This human life is a learning experience. “I will praise thee with uprightness of heart, when I shall have learned thy righteous judgments” (Ps. 119:7). Man must be willing to admit his wrong-his sin- before God. Sin is the transgression of the law (1 John 3:4). Happiness is not obtainable without admitting guilt and repenting of it. “He that covereth his sins shall not prosper: but whoso confesseth and forsaketh them shall have mercy” (Prov. 28:13). Man must repent of breaking that law. He must establish a relationship with God in order to achieve happiness and contentment. “There is no peace, saith my God, to the wicked” (Isa. 57:21). This physical life is but for a moment, but the lessons we learn are for an eternity. Man is born to trouble, and permanent happiness seems hard to find. But we learn through suffering.
For which cause we faint not; but though our outward man perish, yet the inward man is renewed day by day. For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory; While we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal. (2 Cor. 4:16-18)
God is working out a great purpose here below. A part of that plan includes learning the value of God’s commandments. Many, however, think God’s commandments are burdensome. The Bible tells us they are not: “For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments: and his commandments are not grievous” (1 John 5:3). The rejection of God’s Law is the cause of much of the suffering and misery on the earth. If you desire happiness in this life, the way shown in God’s Truth can help you to achieve it.