The Secret to Happiness

Even for some of us who follow Jesus, life can be an enigma. We assume when we decide to follow Jesus that we will always be happy and life will go smoothly. It can be a rude awakening when we find that is not the case. I believe that two passages from Scripture can assist us in navigating the difficulties of life and maintaining equilibrium. In the often overlooked book of Ecclesiastes, Solomon brought to light a truth that reveals a lie many of us have believed. In Ecclesiastes chapter 2, Solomon declared that much of what we spend our life pursuing is actually meaningless; he listed as meaningless such things as the acquisition of wealth and possessions, of wisdom, the pursuit of pleasure and comfort and the receipt of fame. For many of us who have lived several decades and spent time and energy pursuing those things, we learn that these things that Solomon listed can only bring temporary enjoyment, but it doesn’t last, leaving a nagging emptiness in its wake.

While Solomon described the problem, the apostle Paul in his powerful and practical letter to the Philippians outlined the solution in a few brief sentences. In Philippians chapter 4, Paul expressed the joy in knowing that the Philippians were concerned about his welfare, while he awaited trial in a Roman prison. In his response, Paul described a very important lesson he had learned. It is important to emphasize that he had learned this lesson. It didn’t happen automatically when he met Jesus on the road to Damascus. What was the lesson he had learned? It was the lesson of contentment in every circumstance he encountered, whether pleasant or unpleasant. By contentment, Paul in no way meant complacent. Paul was anything but complacent, he was actively pursuing what he considered his life mission of helping others know how much God loved them, revealed through Jesus.

What then does it mean to be content? To me it means to have the confidence at any given moment that all is well in our life and that no circumstance will change that reality. We refuse to allow pleasant circumstances to distract us from what is truly important. While at the same time, we do not allow negative circumstances to lie to us by believing that those negative circumstances will define our future. The foundation of such contentment is not at all related to circumstances, but that the living God, who allowed Jesus to die on our behalf loves us and will take care of us. No circumstance, either positive or negative will change that reality, but if we allow pleasant circumstances to deceive us into thinking they are the source of our contentment, or if we believe that negative circumstances will endure forever and rob us of contentment, then the contentment that Paul enjoyed will be lost.

So what is the secret to lasting happiness in this life. I believe it is rooted in thankfulness for God’s presence and love for us expressed to us at all times whether our situation is pleasant or unpleasant. The confidence that God is with us and nothing can separate us from his love, proven by his not sparing even his own son Jesus on our behalf produces a lasting happiness in our life. We just need to remember it when things go well and fight for it when things go poorly.

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