Photo by Ben White on Unsplash|
Laurie Santos is a happiness expert. She teaches the most popular class in Yale’s history: Psychology and the Good Life. It fills the largest auditorium on campus every time its offered with over 1000 students. Santos also hosts the Happiness Lab podcast that has been downloaded almost 100 million times since it launched in 2019. (I’ve been part of those millions for a couple of years.)
The popularity of Dr. Santos and her teaching is no surprise. Surveys show that less that 1/5th of Americans are happy and more than ¼ of us are too anxious to daily engage well in life and work. People are on the lookout for happiness insights.
Most people are inclined to look for happiness, however, in the wrong places. We commonly think that achievement, our own success, brings happiness. Accomplishments do raise the thermometer a bit, but modern research shows that helping others succeed, doing something good for someone else, actually contributes more to our own happiness. Wealth, having more than enough, has also been thought of as a happiness generator. Again, studies show that having financial margin is helpful, but deep, enduring, life-sustaining happiness is more a component of socializing. Connecting with others in caring ways builds happiness more than being flush with cash.
It turns out that happiness – that state of well-being and contentment – is more an inside job than something dependent on outside factors. Happiness, Scripture suggests, is a God-produced fruit that comes from knowing our loving God and growing in His body, the church. Jesus said that joy is a byproduct of life in Him and the Spirit living within. Isaiah said our minds would be in “perfect peace” when resting on God.(Isaiah 26: 3) Perfect peace is happiness. Jesus promised that our “joy will be complete” in Him. (John16: 24b) He said the thief, Satan and his deceitful way, “comes only to steal and kill and destroy.” Jesus came to bring life “to the full.” (John 10:10) That’s happiness.
We may sing, “I’m happy all the time,” but no one is (or should be) 10-out-of-10 happy all the time. Other emotions, even negative ones, are good. They’re helpful signals alerting us of needful correction or course-change. But, as a general rule of happiness, Paul’s advice is solid: “Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again, REJOICE!” (Philippians 4: 4)
by Pastor Jeff Kinne