What is happiness? This can be a difficult question to answer. In the context of a new year, having an answer probably feels like a key to a good year. Pastor Keith Haney offers a Biblical perspective.
You have probably heard enough Happy New Year greetings to last you until Valentine’s Day. Have you had time to stop and process what that greeting means for you? What does happiness look like for you in 2022? Are you hoping for a better financial bottom line? Does happiness mean for you better health? Have you joined that fitness club and added more fruits and veggies to your shopping list? The Book of Psalms begins with a definition of happiness:
Blessed is the man
who walks not in the counsel of the wicked,
nor stands in the way of sinners,
nor sits in the seat of scoffers;
but his delight is in the law of the LORD,
and on his law, he meditates day and night.
The word blessed is translated in Hebrew as “happy.” This verse seems to lead us down a pathway to disappointment, at least according to the standards of the world. Happy is the man or woman who dedicates himself or herself to living a godly and righteous life. That is the person who finds true happiness. The person who rejects God and goes it alone is the miserable person.
Only the Godly Man Can Be Happy
The psalmist warns believers to be careful of the advice of those not following the Way. Those who have decided they have no place for God are ready and willing to offer advice to those living for God. The advice of unbelievers is littered all around us. We run across it in casual conversation, on social media, in commercials, magazine and newspaper articles, and movies and television shows. Their voices ring loud and clear—abandon your narrow way of thinking (walking in the way of the Lord), and embrace this new enlightened lifestyle.
Blaise Pascal, the author of Pensées (translated to “Thoughts” in English), had astute reflections on happiness. He notes that we do not encounter delight in ourselves or our condition in life but solely in God. While our way of life affords us flashes of enjoyment or happiness when we perform acts of good for those in need, those instances can’t be compared to God’s promise. We can find contentment by being creative and innovative in our vocation and hoping for a better future. Happiness may occur by reveling in God’s presence in nature as we lay in the sunshine of a beautiful evening. But that is a fleeting occasion of bliss. Pascal points out that the origin of happiness is a state of our existence that is in line with the will of God and, thus, right with humanity.
God Gives Us a Path
As believers, the Word of God reminds us to reject all evil advice. In doing so, we will be healthier and more whole (in the sense of being happy). The blessed person finds happiness in the “law of the LORD.” The word law is often misunderstood. In Psalm 1:1–2, the word law means “teaching,” “instruction,” or “direction.” We usually assume “the law of the LORD” to be the law God handed down to Moses on Mount Sinai. Psalm 119 gives us a better understanding; the term also refers to the whole truth of God’s Law and Gospel as it is revealed in the Word of God. This is the deeper sense that the writer of Psalm 1 had in mind. To have a happy 2022 and beyond, the pathway is simple yet difficult on this side of heaven. Walk in the way of the Lord, and you will be truly happy. Have a Happy New Year.