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.
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.