First, we need to see what we believe about happiness. Many of us, unconsciously or consciously, don’t believe we even have a right to be happy. Our mouths say one thing while our actions say another. We will say, “I just want to be happy,” and then we’ll stuff ourselves with fast food, choose some man or woman who doesn’t care a lick about us, stay in an unfulfilling job, drop out of college, inject drugs or alcohol into our systems or wait to move out of our apartment one step ahead of the landlord kicking us out. And we ponder why we can’t find ‘true’ happiness. My point is this – first you need to check yourself out. Try this exercise. First, think about how you are living your life. What habits, hobbies or patterns of behavior make up your life? Are they contributing to your happiness or are they taking away from it? Here is a sure way to tell – while you are doing an activity or fulfilling some obligation – how do you feel? Are you filled with excitement, anticipation and or a sense of contentment? Or do you feel dread, dismay and do everything possible to put it off, delay it or cancel it entirely? Do you call or make plans to make that activity happen or do you hide from the phone and wish that they would forget you ever joined that committee, group or exercise club? Now do this mental evaluation for every activity in which you are a part. Good. How many of those activities contribute to your happiness and how many of those activities take away from it? Make a note of those things. Now let’s move on.
Now, try this exercise (this is to find out what happiness means to you). When you think of happiness, what comes to your mind? Does it mean sunny days, well-behaved children, a responsive spouse, or success in your chosen career? A shiny new car? A walk down the aisle to receive a college degree? The bright lights and acclaim of a Broadway career? Winning the 100 meter dash at the Olympics? When you think of your own personal happiness, what image comes to mind? Now, hold on to that thought. Let’s go on to see what the Bible says about happiness.
The Bible’s definition of happiness is simple. In Psalms 1:1-2, it says ‘Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor standeth in the way of sinners, nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful. But his delight is in the law of the Lord; and in his law doth he meditate day and night.’ Okay, modern-day translation: Blessed means ‘happy’, so, good, the bible is going to tell us how to be happy. ‘Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly’ – that means you are happy when you don’t take the advice of those who do not know God. ‘Nor standeth in the way of sinners’ – you don’t do the things that sinners do. ‘Nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful’ – you don’t mock or make fun of others. That’s pretty easy, right? Don’t take the advice of the ungodly, don’t do the things that sinners do, and don’t mock or make fun of others. A nice list of don’ts. But then the Bible tells you what to do to bring happiness to your life – ‘But his delight is in the law of the Lord; and in his law doth he meditate day and night.’ So, we need to read the bible, and take delight in it. And read it ‘day and night’ – in other words, all the time.
Now, if you’re anything like me, this admonition always seemed to be pretty tough. Not only tough, but darned near impossible. Reading the bible was great, I always thought, but all the time? And take delight in it? Please. The Bible always seemed to be more a list of rules and regulations than anything that I would read for pleasure. Reading for pleasure to me meant a good romance novel, the latest edition of People or Essence or whatever new self-help book was out. But, the Bible? Come on. For one thing, it was written in some ancient, moldy language that no one could understand. And, it wasn’t very relevant to what was going on right now, right here in my life, today. No ‘thou shalts’ or ‘goeth hithers’ was going to tell me what to do when my boyfriend started trippin’ or my mom got on my nerves or when I wanted to curse out my boss at work. The Bible seemed to be outdated, preachy and out of touch, to say the least.