What does it mean to follow Christ in my everyday life?

As I write these words I’m in a holding pattern. I woke up showing several  symptoms matching the CDC’s warnings to watch for a COVID-19 infection. Since I have an underlying auto-immune disease and accompanying asthma, I called my local doctor first thing.

Today’s doctor’s appointment was fairly ordinary. I signed in and waited for my name to be called. The nurse checked me in by recording my blood pressure, temperature, and weight. Although, the typically full waiting room and office filled with smiling aides were exchanged for a ghost-town-entryway and co-workers graced with masks on their faces. The doctor, who entered the exam room with her own mouth and nose protected, also bore proof that maybe this wasn’t really an ordinary appointment after all.

After the exam, a few swabs, and a negative rapid strep test, I was told it could be a sinus infection with aggravated asthma or possible COVID-19. Tests were ordered. I was sent off with instructions to fill my meds drive-thru style, go home, and wait.

By the time this post goes live, I should know whether I am COVID-19 positive or not. Meanwhile, masks must be worn if we leave the house. Visits with family—especially with those who are older—should be avoided. We are to act as if our entire family is infected.

And so, we wait.

WHEN OUR FAITH IS PROVED

It is in these waiting times of life—where the “what-ifs” are palpable, while unknown test results linger—that our resolve is tested. These are the moments when our faith is proved.

Do I really believe what I proclaim?

That God sees these moments.

That God knows my future.

That God is my protecting shield and anything He has allowed, anything He is allowing, and anything He ever will allow in my life is no accident.

And that no matter what, God is good.

This is what I say I believe. It’s what I’ve been teaching live on Facebook all week as I’ve prepared for my book launch. (Oh, yeah. I forget to tell you. Today—the day I write these words—the day I found out I might just have the novel virus—is the day my book with the word happy in the title was released.) It’s the message I’ve studied and written and prayed about for over two years. It’s the teaching of how God has created us to flourish regardless of our circumstances. It’s the truth about how He has provided a way for every one of us to experience an abundant, happy life that can weather any storm.

Even through this COVID-19 storm.

IN THE WAITING

So what am I doing? I’m resting. I’m enjoying my family. We’re watching Netflix and playing with the dog. We’re laughing and eating and sleeping and living. Just like we did yesterday. And I’m choosing not to allow a potential diagnosis with a potential outcome to steal my joy, rob my faith, or ruin my happiness.

Have I had some freak-out moments? Sure. I think we all have in the last few weeks. Because sometimes the “what-ifs” get the better of us. So much about this pandemic is out of our control.

But when our joy, faith, contentment, delight, and hope is based not on our circumstances but on who God is, that’s when happiness happens. Soul-level, unshakeable, Jesus-provided happiness. We can experience the full and thriving life He died to provide us. We can have the resilient, fruitful existence He’s prepared for you and me. We can grasp the hope and peace He gives us through His presence. As we cling to the character of God instead of wallowing in the “what-ifs,” our holding patterns can be a place of peace.

A PRAYER IN THE HOLDING PATTERN

God, help us to keep our thoughts on who You are more than what might be. Help us to use our every breath to honor You. Help us to see every change as an opportunity to prove Your faithfulness. Help us to recognize the opportunities we have to declare that You are good. By Your grace, we will wait in this holding pattern with patience and peace, knowing that You see all and know all. Lord, we believe. Help our unbelief.

This post was originally posted over at LifeWay Voices.

Our culture has been moving more and more toward digital life, but with the advent of sheltering and quarantining due to COVID-19, every day brings new opportunities to connect, learn, and resource online, especially in the Bible study space. With this surge of digital studies, new online communities, and groups gathering digitally to go through a study together, the online spaces are suddenly saturated with great options to choose from.

Even before all of this, questions like, “Where should I start studying the Bible?” and “What’s the best thing to study next?” are very common concerns. Here are three actions to take to help you make a decision.

Consider this hierarchy for how to choose.

This is not meant to be a hard and fast rule, but just a series of questions you can ask yourself to help guide you to a Bible study that is a good fit for where you are right now.

  1. Where is God leading me/already speaking? Take some quiet moments to look and listen for where God is already leading you.
  2. What is my local church studying? Studying with “real-life” people you are committed to is always a great thing to prioritize. Even if the topic/study is not something you are most interested in. We lean so much from studying alongside one another.
  3. What have I not yet studied? Have a Bible study bucket list and lean in to the books of the Bible you’ve never studied before.
  4. What am I interested in? If, after going through the first three questions, you still are not sure simply go with what sounds fun to you!

Another big factor to keep in mind is to know where we are on the Bible Study Boulevard. Once we know where we are on our journey, that will help us choose the next best baby step.

Remember there is no bad choice if it gets you in the Word.

You may evaluate where you are and where God is leading and still have several studies to choose from. There are loads of great guides out there. Don’t turn this into a moral choice! Just pick one and dive in.

Don’t forget to think outside of the box.

The time we spend in front of the Bible is critical for our spiritual life. But it is not the only way we can get in the Word.

  • Bookend your day with time in the Word.
  • Utilize podcast sermon series’.
  • Listen to God’s Word throughout the day.
  • Engage in both topical and passage-driven studies (ones that go verse-by-verse through a book of the Bible or passage of Scripture).

This post is a summary of my conversation with Teri Lynne Underwood. You can catch the entire chat in the video below or watch in on Facebook.

In many ways, this is where it all comes together. All the Happy Soul secrets. All the Happy Soul actions. They begin and end here, with taking refuge in God. It starts with trusting in the charity of Christ for the salvation of our souls. It continues with trusting in the grace of God—in this “already but not yet” space—while we wait for our salvation to be complete. It starts with a correct view of God as our merciful rescuer. It continues with a correct view of God as our powerful sustainer.

I am at rest in God alone;

my salvation comes from him.

He alone is my rock and my salvation,

my stronghold; I will never be shaken.

Psalm 62:1–2

The metaphor of taking refuge in God is central to the Psalms. There are dozens of psalms that portray God as a refuge—a place where God’s people can take cover from the storm and have no worry for their well-being. The original Old Testament audience would have clearly recognized this messaging through the usage of terms like strong tower, rock, fortress, shelter, shield, stronghold, and more. In a world without weather warnings and instant news updates, having a safe place nearby to run to in case of attack—whether that be from the enemy or from the clouds above—was a necessity for survival. Their world was continually filled with military and environmental threats; shelter from their potential woes was always sought out.

This refuge motif is also closely connected to the portrait throughout the Psalms of God as our King. In the book of Judges, there is a fable told that helps us understand the connection God’s people would have had with taking refuge and kingship. In this Old Testament parable, a group sought a king, and one character who had been asked to reign over them replies to their requests: “If you really are anointing me as king over you, come and find refuge in my shade” (Judges 9:15). Taking refuge is the proof of trusting the kingship.

The one who lives under the protection of the Most High

dwells in the shadow of the Almighty.

I will say concerning the Lord, who is my refuge and my fortress,

my God in whom I trust:

He himself will rescue you from the bird trap,

from the destructive plague.

He will cover you with his feathers;

you will take refuge under his wings.

His faithfulness will be a protective shield.

Psalm 91:1–4

As a college student, I served on Wednesday nights with a youth group the next town over. The church, established in 1837, had several buildings from several different eras, all of which were connected by hallways and unique spaces. One of these spots was my favorite for when we played hide-and-seek during youth lock-ins. It was a small space tucked under one of the stairwells. It was too small to store much in, but big enough that I could crawl into it, curl up, and relax while everyone else frantically found a good hiding spot. My spot was so good that one time I fell asleep and was woken up by the sound of several kids calling my name. They were trying to find me! The game had ended but I never showed back up to the youth room. That spot under the stairs was a safe space. It was my hide-and-seek refuge. I had surrendered to the safety of the spot, so much so that I had fallen asleep.

The Happy Soul is so convinced in the strength and faithfulness of her King that she readily takes refuge—seeks safety—under His protection. Once we have the goodness and grandeur of God settled in our minds, resting in Him comes much more naturally. It doesn’t come perfectly, but it can become our preference. If we want the benefits of being in the shelter of God’s wing, we have to let go of our plans and our “power” in order to rest. Being able to sit and rest under the shelter of God’s safe plan and mighty hand recognizes that He is in control. He is able to see the big picture. He knows what has been and what will be. He loves me more than I can imagine. He has good plans for me.

Then I called on the name of the Lord:

“Lord, save me!”

The Lord is gracious and righteous;

our God is compassionate.

The Lord guards the inexperienced;

I was helpless, and he saved me.

Return to your rest, my soul,

for the Lord has been good to you.

Psalm 116:4–7


This is an excerpt from my book, Secrets of the Happy Soul.

Secret #1– The Happy Soul is FOCUSED on God

Secret #2 – The Happy Soul is RESOLVED to follow God’s Way

Secret #3 – The Happy Soul is ATTACHED to God’s Word

Secret #4– The Happy Soul is DEPENDENT on God’s provision.

Secret #5– The Happy Soul is CONFIDENT in who she is.

Secret #6– The Happy Soul is SURRENDERED to her King.

I’ve been slowly working on our backyard. Though it is nice and green and beautifully paved, I’m not in love with the arrangement of plants.

Whenever I get a few moments of free time in the early evening, once the Florida heat begins to lessen, you can find me digging up and replanting plants. Some of them are growing great but have outgrown their spot. Others are struggling because they are not getting enough sun. Some are getting too much. So I keep my hands busy in the garden, giving attention to each plant to find the perfect situation for each, but always keeping in mind the big-picture view.

With the same intentionality and care, each of us have been hand-placed by God exactly where we are. You and I are part of His big-picture garden plan. A purposeful planting. The work of His hands. As individuals, we are precious to God . . . but we are also a part of the whole. He did not plant us in isolation. And we are not the center of His world. The end goal of our planting is not simply for our own enjoyment and prosperity. Our place in history and location in geography is no accident. You and I have been personally planted and perfectly placed exactly where we are for a reason: to display the glory of God to those around us.

We see this truth way back in Genesis through the command to be fruitful and multiply (Genesis 1:28). He gives it again in His covenant with Noah (Genesis 9:1) and with Israel (Genesis 35:10). To Abraham, God promised to make him extremely fruitful (Genesis 17:6). And at the heart of the Ten Commandments and the rest of the Law given to Moses for God’s people, is for the thriving of both the individual and the nation. And while this charge to be fruitful and multiply certainly includes the bearing and raising up of children who know and love God, this command is not primarily one of physical fruitfulness. It is a spiritual fruitfulness. The heart of the commands of both the Old and New Testament is that of our spiritual growth. God has given us the recipe for living a spiritually fruitful life, in order that we would be fruitful followers of God. His plan has always been for our flourishing and so that He may be glorified. This is why we exist, to give God glory with the way we live our lives, because it is through the beautiful blooming of the Happy Soul that others see her heavenly Father.

The Spirit of the Lord God is on me,

because the Lord has anointed me

to bring good news to the poor.

He has sent me to heal the brokenhearted,

to proclaim liberty to the captives

and freedom to the prisoners;

to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor,

and the day of our God’s vengeance;

to comfort all who mourn,

to provide for those who mourn in Zion;

to give them a crown of beauty instead of ashes,

festive oil instead of mourning,

and splendid clothes instead of despair.

And they will be called righteous trees,

planted by the Lord

to glorify him.

Isaiah 61:1–3

The Old Testament is filled with prophecy, the foretelling of truths to come. These verses foretold much about Christ, the promised Messiah who would come to earth to rescue His people.

Jesus will bring good news to the poor.

Jesus will bring healing to the brokenhearted.

Jesus will bring liberty to the captives.

Jesus will bring justice, comfort, beauty, rejoicing, and hope.

We are the poor, the brokenhearted, captives in need of great help. This is the point where many teachers and preachers, books and blog posts might tell you that Jesus loved you so much that He gave up everything to come to earth and rescue you. And He did. But this is not the end of the story. There is more. And while Jesus indeed loves us with a great love, and this love was one big factor for why He came to earth, it is not His primary motivation; it is not His ultimate purpose. What Isaiah foretold as the purpose of why Jesus came (and the purpose Jesus himself stated again and again for coming) was for the glory of the Lord our God.

Do you see it there, tucked away at the end of this Isaiah passage? It’s the very last part: “to glorify him.” The good news is proclaimed to us—the bound and the mourning, the faint and the brokenhearted—so that we might be a “righteous tree, planted by the Lord,” so that we can “glorify him.” God has rescued us from our hopeless state, gifted us new life, and firmly planted us. All this for His glory.

The end goal of Jesus’ coming was not our rescue.

The end goal of our salvation is not our salvation.

The end goal of becoming a Happy Soul is not simply being a Happy Soul.

The end goal of Jesus’ coming was God’s glory.

The end goal of our salvation is God’s glory.

The end goal of becoming a Happy Soul is God’s glory.

The Happy Soul exists to bring God glory.

This is the piece we often miss. Yes, we are recipients of mercy. Yes, we are beneficiaries of grace. But the implications of these truths are not to simply give us a healthy self-esteem. What is true of us because of Christ is not the end of the story. All of what God has done for us is for a greater purpose than just our salvation. The rescue of our souls from sin and the bestowing of every spiritual gift was all done for His glory. We have been saved to be a reflection of our Savior. The Happy Soul gets this, and it shapes everything she does—and doesn’t do—because the Happy Soul exists to bring God glory.

I am a recipient of deep mercy.

I am a beneficiary of glorious grace.

I exist to bring glory to God.

Let everything that breathes praise the Lord.

Hallelujah!

Psalm 150:6


This is an excerpt from my book, Secrets of the Happy Soul.

Secret #1– The Happy Soul is FOCUSED on God

Secret #2 – The Happy Soul is RESOLVED to follow God’s Way

Secret #3 – The Happy Soul is ATTACHED to God’s Word

Secret #4– The Happy Soul is DEPENDENT on God’s provision.

Secret #5– The Happy Soul is CONFIDENT in who she is.

Secret #6– The Happy Soul is SURRENDERED to her King.

We often think of the book of Psalms as a happy book filled with praise and worship. Yet over a third of the Psalms are filled with lament. They question. They complain. They cry out. However, alongside the wails, there is worship—a declaration of God’s good and steadfast character. They exhibit a deep trust in His faithful love and unchanging righteousness. The sad and sullen psalmists stood steady with an unwavering trust in the truth of who God is. Twice in Psalm 42 and once in chapter 43, we see the same set of phrases addressing the soul: “Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me? Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my salvation and my God.” The psalmist told his soul what to do and feel. So also must the Happy Soul.

The Happy Soul wrestles with her hard reality, then instructs her heart what to do while she waits for God’s rescue.

The Happy Soul presents her doubts and questions to God, then sermonizes her soul toward the truth of His character.

The Happy Soul laments all she’s lost, but she also prompts her spirit toward the ever-present hope she has through Christ.

This life is hard. It’s okay to waver. To question. To grieve. To be conflicted. However, as we do, we must cling to truth. But if we are going to cling to truth through our troubles, we need a solid foundation of who God is. Do you see how each secret builds on one another? Focus leads to resolve. Resolve leads to attachment. Attachment leads to dependency. Dependency leads to a fruitful resiliency that will carry us through the storm.

We cannot tell ourselves what is true of God if we aren’t sure of Him to begin with. God sees. God cares. God heals. God controls. God comforts. God loves. God is good. Do you believe it? Do you know it deep-down in your soul? Do you know where in Scripture it tells you these things? It will be these truths—and the conviction of their validity—that will allow you to walk with hope in God amidst the everyday hardships and the unthinkable tragedies. Instead of being driven by our ever-changing emotions, let’s embed our anchor firmly in the bedrock of God’s unchanging character and steadfast love.

The person who trusts in the Lord,

whose confidence indeed is the Lord, is blessed.

He will be like a tree planted by water:

it sends its roots out toward a stream,

it doesn’t fear when heat comes,

and its foliage remains green.

It will not worry in a year of drought

or cease producing fruit.

— Jeremiah 17:7–8

This beautiful parallel passage in Jeremiah is very similar to our Psalm 1 passage. But it provides us with a few extra details about the Happy Soul.The Happy Soul does not fear the fires around the corner. The Happy Soul does not worry during her desperate times of drought. Why? Because she is planted by the streams of God and has solidly situated herself in the banks of His character. She will be evergreen and resiliently fruitful—no matter what comes her way. Her source of support is in the stream. The enduring fruit of God’s people stems from the sustaining power of God.

James’s death was hard. The reality of his death is still hard. I’m certain that around the corner lies harder things still. But through all the ups and downs, through all the pain and problems, I can be a Happy Soul—not because I am strong and steady but because my God is. You can be a Happy Soul too! We don’t have to fear the future. We can kick anxiety good-bye. We can thrive regardless of our circumstances. We can never cease to bear fruit. This is the reality of the Happy Soul who trusts in the Lord. She knows that He is a good and powerful, personal and great God who will provide for her every step of whatever comes her way. The Happy Soul is dependent on God’s provision.

Consider it a great joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you experience various trials, because you know that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its full effect, so that you may be mature and complete, lacking nothing.

— James 1:2–4


This is an excerpt from my book, Secrets of the Happy Soul.

Secret #1– The Happy Soul is FOCUSED on God

Secret #2 – The Happy Soul is RESOLVED to follow God’s Way

Secret #3 – The Happy Soul is ATTACHED to God’s Word

Secret #4– The Happy Soul is DEPENDENT on God’s provision.

Secret #5– The Happy Soul is CONFIDENT in who she is.

Secret #6– The Happy Soul is SURRENDERED to her King.

A few years ago I was invited to speak at a women’s conference in my hometown in Southern California. Since my family relocated to Alabama a few weeks after I graduated from high school, it had been decades since I’d been in that town. I arrived a bit early to visit with family, catch coffee with a few high school friends, and wander around my old stomping grounds. It was an extremely emotional trip for me as I remembered the girl who grew up in that town and all God has done for her since then.

The conference was hosted at a church just a few miles from where I attended high school. During the break on Saturday, I drove my rental car over to the school campus so I could walk around campus a bit. It’s a small private school, and it was basically the same as I remembered it, with a few additions. The same small chapel stood where I used to hear God’s Word taught every Friday. The same beige lockers lined the outdoor hall of the high school wing. The same left-behind sweaters, assignments, and notebooks were strewn about, cluttering the hall. As I walked the hall, smiling as the memories flooded over me, one locker stopped me in my tracks.

On top of that locker was a Bible.

Scribbled on and dog-eared.

Pages torn and spine destroyed.

Abandoned until Monday.

Awaiting to be flippantly thrown into a backpack and brought to Bible class.

It looked just like mine had when I was there. It was being treated just like mine had been. And, most likely, the owner of that Bible lacks a love for their Bible just as I did. For so long I saw the Bible as just another textbook. A chore. A roadblock. A burden of guilt. As I type, I am weeping at the memory—that I ever had such a casual distain for the Word of God, that I forfeited so much time with Him and took on so much trouble without Him when I could have been enjoying the benefits of being a Happy Soul. Deep down, I had been re-named a Happy Soul. I could feel it. I knew there had to be something more but I had no idea how to obtain it. I didn’t know how to enact change. My view of God was off. I could follow the do’s and don’ts, but I didn’t know how to get closer to God himself. And I certainly didn’t love God’s Word.

We’ve all been there, haven’t we? Perhaps you are there right now. Your Bible may not be as physically neglected as the one I saw that Saturday afternoon, but it is neglected nonetheless. It gathers dust on a shelf, sits on the floorboard of your car throughout the week, or is lost somewhere in your bedroom. Or perhaps you are opening your Bible but are just going through the motions. You read. You check “read Bible” off your list. You close your Bible. You keep walking. There’s no attachment to the Word of God. No true closeness to God. There’s no awe and wonder. There’s no overwhelming love and feelings of delight. You’d rather be enjoying the next Netflix episode or clinging to your Facebook feed instead of spending time with God through His Word.

… Most of us don’t have a delighting problem. We delight in and enjoy many things just fine. God has created us for pleasure. Just think about it. God created our bodies to enjoy things! Eating food is primarily about keeping alive, yet we’ve been given taste buds and a variety of sweet and savory food to eat. Functionally speaking, sex is about keeping the human race going, yet God has wired male and female bodies to enjoy one another. There is no room for doubt: God created us to experience deep delight. 

… Jesus made this clear in a conversation with the Samaritan woman at the well. We don’t know her name, but we know that Jesus saw her at the well and knew her emptiness. It is likely that she’d been mistreated and cast aside most her life. As Jesus pursued her broken heart, he chatted with her about the well water: “Everyone who drinks from this water will get thirsty again. But whoever drinks from the water that I will give him will never get thirsty again. In fact, the water I will give him will become a well of water springing up in him for eternal life” (John 4:13–14). Not long after this encounter, while addressing the crowds of people, Jesus claimed, “I am the bread of life . . . No one who comes to me will ever be hungry, and no one who believes in me will ever be thirsty again” (John 6:35). Jesus taught that only He could satisfy our deepest desires. And the Bible shows us how to come to Jesus with our cravings. “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water’” (John 7:37–38 ESV).

Our salvation brings a quenching to our soul that we will enjoy for eternity. But as we pursue to work out our salvation—as we resolve to make our internal identity become an external reality—we have to keep drawing from the well of the Word, which grants us the way to the One who can satisfy our souls. God’s Word gives us perspective, instructions, and parameters needed to navigate this sin-stained world. It is our protection. Our hope. Our guide. Our grace.

I have your decrees as a heritage forever;

indeed, they are the joy of my heart.

I am resolved to obey your statutes

to the very end. — Psalm 119:111–112


This is an excerpt from my book, Secrets of the Happy Soul.

Secret #1– The Happy Soul is FOCUSED on God

Secret #2 – The Happy Soul is RESOLVED to follow God’s Way

Secret #3 – The Happy Soul is ATTACHED to God’s Word

Secret #4– The Happy Soul is DEPENDENT on God’s provision.

Secret #5– The Happy Soul is CONFIDENT in who she is.

Secret #6– The Happy Soul is SURRENDERED to her King.

I am sure of this, that he who started a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus. — Philippians 1:6

In college I took a ton of chemistry classes, all of which were accompanied by regular laboratory time. We put into practice the theory we were learning from the lectures at that time. Chemical reactions copied down in our notebooks were later physically carried out in a beaker. Many experiments included a catalyst. Without the catalyst, the reaction would still occur . . . eventually. With all the components present, the final product would be produced, but the addition of a catalytic agent greatly sped up the rate of the reaction.

So it is with our spiritual growth. Ultimately, our transformation into a Happy Soul is a work of God, yet we have a catalytic role to play in that work. Just like those chemical reactions carried out in the lab, all the necessary components for spiritual transformation are present. All those who have put their faith in the work of Christ on the cross will be made to look just like Him . . . eventually. It is the certain work God has started, is working, and will complete within us. That is the equation. We are the catalysts.

Remember our “already but not yet” status we chatted through in part 1? We are already saved, but not yet. We are already a Happy Soul, but not yet. God has made us into a Happy Soul as part of our new identity in Christ (justification). God is making us into a Happy Soul as we partner with Him to work out that reality (sanctification). God will make us into a Happy Soul when we see Him face to face and the work He has begun in us is completed (glorification). It is then, in heaven with Christ, we will enjoy and worship God forever without the presence of sin. And though we will never experience the perfect presence of our holy God on this side of eternity, we can certainly begin to get a glimpse of it. The transformation has begun. But the extent to which we see that metamorphosis realized here on earth is affected by our participation or neglect of following God’s Way.

You and I are the catalysts of change in our own spiritual lives. The believers who understand their role of obedient choices as a catalytic agent will experience this transformation more quickly and more fully. Those who rarely engage in this work will see the bulk of their transformation occur on the other side of this life where God’s work of salvation will come to completion. I want to be as close as possible to what God has planned. Don’t you?

The first step to following God’s Way is understanding that He has crafted His Way to include you and me. His Way utilizes the actions of His people.

So what does this catalytic work actually look like? We cannot play our part if we don’t know what that part is. There are thousands of commands in the Bible, but they all boil down to this: Love God with all we have. When asked about God’s Way and which command is greatest, Jesus replied, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and most important command. The second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself” (Matthew 22:37–39). This love for God is an active, obedient love, as “whoever keeps his word, truly in him the love of God is made complete” (1 John 2:5).

To love God is to obey God. To obey God is to love God.

I think, deep down, we already know this. We cannot say we love God if we don’t at least attempt to walk in His way. I could spend time here listing out all the “rules and regulations” of following Christ, but that would miss the point. The end goal of God’s Way is not to simply follow the rules. God’s Way is given to us so that those who love Him can enjoy His holy presence. Let’s take a look at a few “next best steps” to take on our pursuits of loving and obeying God.

Jesus answered, “If anyone loves me, he will keep my word. My Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him.” — John 14:23


This is an excerpt from my book, Secrets of the Happy Soul.

Secret #1– The Happy Soul is FOCUSED on God

Secret #2 – The Happy Soul is RESOLVED to follow God’s Way

Secret #3 – The Happy Soul is ATTACHED to God’s Word

Secret #4– The Happy Soul is DEPENDENT on God’s provision.

Secret #5– The Happy Soul is CONFIDENT in who she is.

Secret #6– The Happy Soul is SURRENDERED to her King.

The Bible is not a collection of stories about mankind. It is not a history book. It is not a how-to guide for how to live our lives. It is first and foremost a book about God. It is theological in function and form. Does it include history? Indeed. Does it record stories of people from whom we can learn? Yes. Does it give us instructions for how to live our lives? Absolutely. But all of it—every story, every rule, every historical detail—is there to point us to God.

If there is any sort of quick fix when it comes to becoming a Happy Soul, it is this: We need to get our focus off ourselves and turn it to God. And the primary way we know about God is through the Bible. That means starting from the correct vantage point. Instead of turning first to what the Bible can give us and what we ought to do, let’s start with a resolve to see God more clearly in the pages of Scripture. For so long I read the Bible primarily through the lens of “What does this mean to me?” The Bible does mean so much to me, as I’m sure it does to you too. However, this is not the best first question to ask when we approach God’s Word. The more appropriate question—and the one whose answers I’ve found to bring the greatest comfort and lasting joy—is “What does this teach me about who God is?” This is the primary purpose of the Bible: to specifically reveal to us the character of God.

Worried about how you are going to pay your next bill?

Set your gaze on God, your Provider.

Afraid of what’s around the corner?

Remember God, your in-control King.

Have you been wronged by someone?

Look to God, our righteous Judge.

In the throes of one of your darkest seasons of the soul?

Focus on God, our comfort through the storms.

For so many of us, this is counterintuitive. When something isn’t right in our lives, we want to know what to do in order to fix it—and we want to do it now. For so many years, the thought of “looking to God” felt like a non-action to me. Perhaps you feel the same way—that the action of opening your Bible in order to learn more about who God is is not actually helpful when your world is falling apart. Because “put your focus on God” can seem like a weak and useless platitude when you’re drowning. But it is especially during the hard times when we need to know—really know—the steadfast character of our God.

This is not to say that we simply “look to God” and everything magically falls into place. But really seeing God for who He really is will always be the starting point for the Happy Soul. If your soul is stuck in despair or fear, hopelessness or pain, the right and best next step is always to remember the faithful, unchanging, good character of God.

The Happy Soul is focused on who God is.


This is an excerpt from my book, Secrets of the Happy Soul.

 

Secret #1– The Happy Soul is FOCUSED on God

Secret #2 – The Happy Soul is RESOLVED to follow God’s Way

Secret #3 – The Happy Soul is ATTACHED to God’s Word

Secret #4– The Happy Soul is DEPENDENT on God’s provision.

Secret #5– The Happy Soul is CONFIDENT in who she is.

Secret #6– The Happy Soul is SURRENDERED to her King.

I woke up this morning to discover that today, March 20, is the International Day of Happiness. I don’t usually pay much attention to the many, often obscure “holidays” (March 20 is also Extraterrestrial Abductions Day) but this one caught my attention. Since I just wrote a book on happiness I can’t help but notice our obsession with it.

My husband and I recently enjoyed watching the PBS mini-series, The Durrells in Corfu, and many times the main character, the widow Mrs. Durrell exclaims to her children, “I just want you all to be happy.” If her children are happy, then all she has endured for them would be worth it. As a mother, I can understand that sentiment.

Examples of our great desire for happiness abound. We all want to be happy. We may disagree on what actually provides happiness, but the desire for delight, peace, and satisfaction is ubiquitous.

Since 2012, the World Happiness Report arrives on this happy day. Utilizing data from the Gallup World Poll, nations are evaluated and ranked by the happiness of their people. I’m still learning about this report and I haven’t yet read it in it’s entirety, but it seems as if they’ve determined that social, physical, and economic environments contribute to our happiness. Finland was determined to be the happiest nation in the world for the third straight year. (Interestingly, a huge percentage of the top 10 happiest nations are Nordic.)

The report emphasizes the correlation between trust and happiness: if we can trust the people around us and the public institutions tasked to serve our community, our happiness will increase.

On the surface, there is much to observe from this report. However, as Christians, we have been given a different measuring stick for happiness. A different set of values. A different starting point.

Being a Happy Soul is something that is gifted to us through Christ. That’s the starting point.

Happy!

This is my identity. Already complete. Completely fulfilled. Fruitful. Resilient. Known. Righteous. This is your identity too. And as we choose to believe this to be true—regardless of how we feel and despite what our circumstances demand—our inward identity becomes our outward reality more and more and more. When we follow God in surrender and serve Him with all that we have, we make the choice to live as if God is indeed our King. As we recognize our need for the powerful, protecting presence of God in our every moment, and as we choose to hide ourself in Him as our home, we can confidently declare with the psalmist that “all who take refuge in him are happy.” — excerpt from Secrets of the Happy Soul

Yet our environment does indeed matter. But it’s not primarily physical, social, or economic factors that determine our experience of the happiness Christ died to bring us. It is our spiritual environment that must be measured.

When we are thriving spiritually, our physical, social, and economic situations don’t have so much pull on us.

They affect us, yes. But they don’t shake us.
They are important but not vital.
They can be all out-of-whack while our souls stay serene, steady, happy.

Why? Because there is a big worldview difference between those who rest in the salvation found in Jesus and those who do not. This difference is this: our end goal is not happiness. Our aim is to know God better, trust Him deeper, and enjoy His presence nearer. Happiness is merely a by-product of knowing Him.

In Secrets of the Happy Soul we start off with seeing that those who are in Christ are already Happy. It is our new status, our name. Happy is who we are. Yet we have work to do to make our new identity become an external reality. So, also, do we have the privilege and responsibility to share about the One who has made us Happy.

What’s your favorite translation of the Bible? My guess is that you are able to answer that question fairly easily, and you may have numerous, specific reasons for it.

There is no shortage of debate and discussion about the best Bible translation. Just this past month I encountered women (in a Christian Bible study space!) battering each other over their opinions about particular Bible translations. Like many social media “discussions” it escalated quickly as opinions were thrown back and forth, positioned as facts.

As I observed the conversation it was clear that each woman involved in the debate believed she was the only one in the right. Both expressed that she refused to “back down” and allow God’s Word to be watered down and tampered with.

Now, I’m all for holding to truth and guarding God’s Word, but it seems to me the line between God’s Word and the translations of man have become blurred.

GOD’S WORD IS INSPIRED. TRANSLATIONS AREN’T.

“By inspiration of Scripture we mean that supernatural influence of the Holy Spirit on the Scripture writers that rendered their writings an accurate record of the revelation [of God] or that resulted in what they wrote actually being the Word of God.”[1]

Long ago, over a span of thousands of years, God spoke to mankind through the biblical authors: Moses, Paul, John, etc. Much time and traveling has occurred since the original and inspired penning of what we hold to today as God’s Word.

We don’t have any of the original documents written by these authors. The Bible we hold in our hands today is a canonized collection of our best reconstruction of the original writings. This reconstruction has then been interpreted from Hebrew, Greek, and Aramaic into various languages. Every English translation is the result of the work of mankind to make the inspired Word of God more accessible to English-speaking people. The original Word of God is inspired. The translations are not.

Do I believe God guides and gifts members of a translation team? Absolutely. Are they doing God’s work? Indeed. But their translation efforts are not a direct inspiration from God. It is enabled and directed and blessed by the Spirit of God, but not inspired.

GOD’S WORD IS INERRANT. TRANSLATIONS AREN’T.

Along the same lines, these many translations are not perfect. That’s one reason why we have so many! Because there is more work that can be done to more accurately represent the original inerrant Word of God. Additionally, with every year that passes, there are more archaeological finds that bring new manuscripts and new historical pieces which help us understand the context better, which ultimately furthers translation efforts toward more and more accuracy.

THE FACT THAT WE HAVE ANY ENGLISH TRANSLATION IS A GIFT.

There are still many souls who are without a single verse in their language. The only copy of the Bible they have seen or heard of is in a different language than the one they speak. Let that sink in. What if the only Bible you had access to was one in French, or Portuguese, or Russian, or even the original languages of Greek, Hebrew, and Aramaic—would you be able to read it?

What a gift to be an English speaker and to hold an English translation in our hands!

THE FACT THAT WE HAVE MANY ENGLISH TRANSLATIONS IS A SIGN OF INCREDIBLE PRIVILEGE.

Choosing a good translation is an important task, but I fear we get way too wrapped up in choosing the best one, that we miss the reality of our incredible state of blessedness. Not only do we have a choice of which English translation to pick from, most of us probably have several Bibles on our shelves (not to mention at our fingertips through Bible apps.) While we fight over which translation we should be reading, there are souls without access to even one Bible to enjoy.

So the next time we encounter the debate about the best Bible translation, let’s keep these things in mind. May it remind us to praise the God who has spoken to us and has preserved His Word in such a way that it is available to us today.


[1] Erickson, Christian Theology

This post was originally posted over at LifeWay Voices.