Do you struggle to maintain joy in difficult times? Do you feel that God has failed to bring happiness to your life? Then join us below as we discover the role we are meant to play and how happiness is a choice!
What is Happiness?
All of us want to live happy lives… walking in happiness daily. Yet, what exactly is happiness, and why do we seem to expect it to be handed to us?
Well, let us first look at what happiness is. According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, happiness is:
- a state of well-being and contentment; joy; a pleasurable or satisfying experience
- felicity; aptness; a striking happiness of expression
- good fortune;prosperity (considered obsolete by modern usage)
So, to live in happiness is to be contented. Joy, therefore, coming once contentment is chosen.
Yes, there can be situations, experiences, and blessings which bring an additional level of happiness and contentment, however, to live in happiness continually, is at its root, a choice. One made far easier when we walk in alignment with God.
Yet, despite the meaning of happiness being contentment, and—for Believers at least—being a choice, we often expect happiness to be laid before us with no effort on our part.
Imagine being Noah, enclosed in an ark for weeks on end, no windows to speak of, no sun… only the family, God, and an unimaginable number of animals to tend and feed. The stench surely was horrible, the future—while assured in God—lay unknown. Each day would have melded into one… wondering how life would be after it was time to leave the ark.
Noah could have decided to walk in bitterness, self-pity, or even doubt when happiness was not laid before him, but he did not. He trusted God. And when the raging storm ended and the waters abated, Noah sent out a dove—a symbol of peace.
He could have sent out a vulture or any number of other birds, but he chose a bird of peace. He chose the one which would come back to its mate. And Noah, by choosing peace, chose to walk in hope, and almost certainly, in contentment… even Godly happiness and joy.
We all desire happiness, particularly personal happiness. Even those who are more adept at placing the will of God and His Kingdom first—such as Noah. Yet, it is by choosing to be contented in all circumstances that we give happiness a place to rest. After all, the Word says that trials and testing WILL come. Believers will know tests and hard times. However, it is how we choose to walk in them that often determines the intensity and duration of what we must face.
“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”—John 16:33 (NIV)
“Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.”—James 1:2-3 (NIV)
“Dear friends, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that has come on you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice inasmuch as you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed.”—1 Peter 4:12-13 (NIV)
Take for example, the Children of Israel being led out of their slavery in Egypt. They reached the wilderness, which God intended to be a period of short duration before they would enter their promise… only, they chose to murmur and complain. They chose to be discontented, bitter, and look back with longing for a past that was no longer theirs. They chose to think like slaves and moan like spoiled young princes. They expected perfection and happiness to be laid before them on a silver platter, and when it took more than a few days to arrive, they longed to turn back. They wanted to be comfortable rather than being contented in the process. The process which would lead them to their promise!
Now, God still gave Israel their promise—albeit to the next generation. But what should have taken weeks, or mere months, took forty years! It did not have to take that long! In fact, even if they had complained at the start, but worked to become content to trust God’s leading and find happiness in Him, the story would have been a far different one! Yet, they focused on the challenges, or “giants” instead of the promise. Their extra time in the desert was a choice, and sadly, a choice which disallowed many their opportunity to see the fulfillment of God’s promise.
The same is true for us. When we choose to focus on the negative—to make giants out of uncomfortable situations—we cause our journey to be more difficult than it needs to be. We make it harder, and even longer, merely by choosing a poor outlook… discontented and unhappy with the process. However, we do not have to choose poorly! We can set our minds toward being content—finding Godly happiness and joy in all circumstances.
Yes, at times we will think or say something negative. We are human, mere flesh and blood beings who make mistakes. However, our outlook remains a choice. When we think or say something negative, we can either come into agreement with it, or choose to rethink and speak positively. We can choose to say, “Okay. That is not the positive outlook God wants. I’m not walking in Godly contentment here, so I’ll turn to God, ask for forgiveness, help, and begin again.”
We can choose to be contented and therefore walk in happiness and joy in all circumstances. It is a choice. One we can make with God.
“I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength.”—Philippians 4:12-13 (NIV)
So, we understand better how happiness—contentment and even joy—is a choice. Yet, does that mean we are to accept every delay, attack, or setback, happily? Not always. Sometimes we are tested out of season or attacked out of season… and when God is not the one who is allowing it, then we need to rise up with God in whatever way He deems right.
Still, sometimes it is hard to know what is being allowed by God for our pruning, molding, or shaping, and what is an unprovoked attack of the enemy. However, by seeking God and asking Him if we need to rise up, we can know what season we are in… what is to be allowed and what is to be fought.
Being contented, finding happiness in all circumstances, does not mean that we never rise up as Godly warriors. It means that we need to trust the process. Trust that when God shapes and molds us, it is for our good, as well as Kingdom good. God knows better than we do when we need to walk through the desert—to prepare us for the promise and promotion to come; when we need to sit and soak for a season—as Esther did before meeting the king; or even when we are to enter our promised land.
“The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.”—2 Peter 3:9 (NIV)
God knows. It is up to us to realize this and to be contented. To walk in happiness as He works behind the scenes… preparing us for the days to come. For a bright future in Him.