September 24, 1996
Riddle: What do you have when you aim for and achieve other goals, but if it becomes your only goal, you lose it? The answer: happiness!
Happiness is sometimes described as feeling delighted on the inside over circumstances on the outside. It is pleasure, euphoria, a twinkle in the eye, a smile on the lips. When we are happy, we can endure almost anything — but take happiness away and who can endure us!
No one wants to be unhappy. In fact, we do everything we can to conquer sadness. One source says former First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt has this epitaph on her tomb: BEHIND TRANQUILITY LIES CONQUERED UNHAPPINESS.
Apparently Mrs. Roosevelt conquered sadness in her life and became noted for her tranquility. Tranquil people are usually not off in a fog but very realistic. They usually have accepted problems, not determined to get rid of them. The Bible affirms this realistic approach and says only fools and evil people think “nothing will shake me; I’ll always be happy and never have trouble.” Good times and happiness are part of life and fighting that reality only brings perpetual misery. However, the Bible has other things to say about happiness. For instance:
HAPPINESS IS A GIFT. Ecclesiastes 5:19 says, “When God gives any man wealth and possessions, and enables him to enjoy them, to accept his lot and be happy in his work — this is a gift of God.”
It is not the wealth and possessions that are the gift but the ability to enjoy them. Some wealthy people cannot enjoy anything. They just want more. Some working people cannot enjoy their labor. They want a different boss or different working conditions, or a bigger paycheck. For them, happiness must come on their own terms. How different are those whom God has gifted with joy in what they have. Their joy is their greatest possession.
BECAUSE HAPPINESS IS FROM HIM, WE SHOULD PRAISE HIM FOR IT. James 5:13 says: “Is anyone happy? Let him sing songs of praise.” Christians show their happiness in this unique way. God is the source of our joy and we are compelled to declare His goodness, even sing about it.
SORROW HAS VALUE. While happiness is a believer’s normal state, Scripture reminds us that it is not sinful to be sad. On the contrary, Ecclesiastes 7:3 suggests a radical attitude: “Sorrow is better than laughter, for by it the heart is made better.”
Sorrow is an opportunity to probe the inner self, to examine motives and perhaps discover the roots of our sadness. If God exposes some ungodly attitudes, resentment or other negatives, we confess these as sin and He forgives and cleanses us. Thus sorrow results in a renewed way of thinking. Because God can use it this way, sorrow is greater than joyful ignorance.
Jesus encountered a man who missed the value of sorrow. He was the wealthy young ruler who approached Jesus asking about eternal life. Jesus recognized him as a self-righteous person with wealth at the top of his priority list so told him, “You lack one thing. Sell everything you have and give to the poor... then come, follow Me.” When the young man heard this, “he became very sad because he was a man of great wealth.”
At this, the man walked away with unconquered unhappiness. He thought his own good deeds would make him right with God. He insisted his gold and silver remain his own. He did not want to hear God say he could “not be saved by the deeds we do.” He did not want to hear that he “could not worship both God and money.”
Like happiness, eternal life is a gift from God. Neither can be bought, earned or deserved, but both can be received, as long as we hold out empty, open hands.