Words of Worth

Happiness Is…

August 12, 2010

Recently my husband astounded me with this statement – “I just want you to be happy!”  Now that’s not really a stunning admission – we all want the people we love to be “happy”, but what did he mean?  His idea of happy or my idea of happy?  Did we even have the same concept of happy?

There’s certainly a growing interest in happiness lately.  In the 90’s for every 100 articles written about sadness, only one was written about being or staying happy.  Today there are entire books devoted to the subject.  Sheryl and I just finished reading  “The Happiness Project” authored by Gretchen Rubin who dedicated a year of her life to boosting her personal happiness.  She tackled different mood enhancing projects each month, some with greater success than others, but at years’ end she admitted she was, indeed, in a happier place.

We are supposed to be happy, right?  Even the Declaration of Independence speaks of happiness but only the in context of the right to pursue happiness – the inalienable right is not that we possess it.  But what does happy really mean?

Imagine Sheryl’s surprise in learning, after taking a happiness inventory, that she was happier than 86% of females in the nation, other professors, people who lived in her zip code, and people who obviously also took the inventory.  Just the high percentage made her a much jollier melancholy-she didn’t realize how happy she is!  But even so, whose idea of happy was the inventory measuring?

The word “happy” appears 28 times in Scriptures and many of the references are intriguing, and one is notable.  Jesus said, “If you know these things, you are happy (blessed) if you do them.”  (John 13:17)  Well, there we go – we simply need to know what “these things” are, do them and we will be happy.  But what are “these things” we need to know and do? Closer inspection of the verse yields the answer.  Jesus had just washed the disciples’ dusty feet and therein laid the answer to happiness.  How could this be?  Could “washing the feet” of other people make me happy?

Interestingly enough, in the “The Happiness Project” which is written from a secular point of view, the author found her own personal happiness soared when she exhibited selflessness and tended to the needs of others.

Research bears this out as well.  Being connected to family and friends, forgiving others and being grateful are key determinants of happiness.  And haven’t we often found this to be true in our own lives?  Reaching out, lending a hand to those less fortunate, offering forgiveness, a kind word, even bringing in your neighbors garbage can cause a surge of happiness.

Thankfully, God’s concept of what it means to be authentically happy is clearly communicated in His Word – as always, His Word is perfect and offers us direction in every area of our lives.   How about we all get busy with our personal “happiness projects” and do the things for others that we know we ought to be doing.

Want more of His Word?  Read John 13:1-17.

Ask God to show you whose feet need washing today.

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