If your team is in the Final Four, you might be happy. All my teams have lost! If your boss recently decided to give you a raise, that might make you happy. Maybe selling your house for a decent price brought a smile to your face. But, what is it that really makes people happy? Here is what researchers found, according to a report in USA Today (I wasn’t surprised as each point fits with a biblical perspective):
1. The happiest people are those who spend the least time alone and pursue intimacy and personal growth.
When I read this, I immediately thought of Jesus. He was proactive when it came to community. He poured His life into a faithful band of followers and developed an intimate circle with 12 men. And through those men, He established the church. The early church was all about community, intimacy and personal growth.
2. Happy people don't judge themselves by what others do or have. In others words, they don't compare themselves to others.
The Bible is clear that we are not to measure ourselves by the yardstick of others, only by the Word of God. As we obey God's Word and choose only to please Him, blessing and contentment follow.
3. Materialism is toxic for happiness. Happy people focus on more important things.
The parable of the rich young ruler in Matthew bears this out. Despite this man's riches, he wanted something more, eternal life. In response, Jesus stresses the importance of keeping the commandments but tells him something more is required. He must sell his possessions and follow Him. Sadly, the young man chooses material possessions over Christ and walks away feeling "sorrowful".
4. Optimism is important, even in dark times.
Because of Christ, hope abounds. Jeremiah 32:17 proclaims, "Ah Lord God! Behold, You have made the heavens by your outstretched arm. There is nothing too hard for you." In the last chapter of Job, after Job suffers much and has been tested, Job cries out, "I know that you can do everything, and that no purpose of Yours can be withheld from You" (Job 42:2). Over and over, we are given biblical examples of people who refused to be downtrodden because of circumstance or events. Their hope was in the Lord. The end result is rest and peace.
5. Actions matter. It's not just what you believe or your outlook on life that contributes to happiness. People who give to others and aren't self-absorbed are more satisfied with life.
No surprise here. God gave His only begotten Son, the ultimate sacrificial gift. Giving is a biblical principal whether it involves finances, service, food, shelter, time and/or talent. The result of giving is blessing.
6. Happy people know their strengths and use them.
We are stewards of God's gifts and are to use them for His glory. When you move in those gifts and do what God has equipped you to do, you are happy. Psychologists call this moving in the "flow". People of faith "flow" in the Spirit.
7. People who feel gratitude are happy.
We are eternally grateful for Jesus and His sacrifice, and all God has done in our lives. Out of that genuine gratitude, flows happiness.
8. The strongest link to happiness is a willingness to forgive others.
The benefits of forgiveness are well documented psychologically, but the command to forgive comes from Jesus. Forgiveness is not an option for the believer. We forgive others because Christ forgave us. It is an individual act of the will. We didn't deserve His forgiveness but He gave it anyway.
The search for happiness will fall short if it doesn't lead to the One in whom contentment can be found. Authentic happiness is unrelated to events, money, power, fame or anything else our culture purports. Happiness is a choice, "Happy are the people who are in such a state. Happy are the people whose God is the Lord" (Psalm 144:15). If you want to find happiness, trust in God's sovereignty and omniscience. Obey Him and believe that He works all things for your good. It’s not about you or your resilience. It's all about Him.
Dr. Linda Mintle is the author of Letting Go of Worry (Harvest House 2011).