What Makes Me Happy?
Author: Kay Camenisch, 1.cbn.com
I had mixed emotions about going to see my mother. She was 93-years-old and had not recognized me for years. It was becoming increasingly difficult to converse with her. She never initiated conversation and rarely responded. Much of the time it seemed she didn’t even hear what I said. I prayed as we traveled that God would somehow let us connect—and that we could be a blessing to her.
The visit was very discouraging. Mother was totally flat. Nothing ignited a spark or brought a response. I looked at my husband asking with my eyes, “What do we do?” I began to question whether or not it was worth the six-hour trip to Atlanta.
Suddenly I remembered a question from someone at church, so I asked, “Mother, are you happy?”
She seemed to be considering the question, but it took her a long time to answer. Finally, in a monotone voice she said, “I haven’t considered that. What does it take to make happy?”
I said, “That’s a good question!” Wow, what does it mean for someone with advanced Alzheimer’s to be happy? After some thought, I added, “I guess happiness means contentment. Are you content?”
We waited so long that I wondered if she remembered the question. She kept moving her lips into and out of her mouth as if priming a pump. I considered repeating the question, or even changing the subject.
Then, suddenly she broke the silence. In a deadpan voice she said, “Yes, I’m content. You could say I have contentment.” Though void of emotion, her words rang true. You could tell she understood, and that she meant it.
The Lord answered my prayer. He let me connect with my mother. He also spoke to me through her. Her question stuck. What does it take to make happy?
We spend a lot of time and energy pursuing happiness. We act as if it is owed us. Even adults make major decisions with happiness as their only goal. In fact, in the United States’ Declaration of Independence, we claim a right to the pursuit of happiness. But how many people consider, “What does it take to make happy?”
Too often, we search for happiness in things dictated by society—in possessions, success, prestige, or fun (entertainment, immorality, food, drinking, or drugs). We think we’ll be happy if we can get what we want. We pursue happiness in temporal fulfillment of personal desires.
Mother’s question was profound, but a better one might be, “What does God say it takes to make happiness?” I checked it out. The primary words in the Bible for happy —in Old and New Testament—are often translated blessed. It seems that happiness is the same as, or comes from, being blessed. In other words, genuine happiness comes from God’s hand.
Many verses paint a very different picture from the self-centered happiness that we pursue. For example:
“Behold, how happy is the man whom God reproves” (Job 5:17, NASB).
“Happy is he who is gracious to the poor” (Prov 14:21, NASB).
“Happy is he who keeps the law” (Prov 29:18, NASB).
“Behold, we count those blessed who endured” (James 5:11, NASB).
“If you are reviled for the name of Christ, you are blessed” (1 Pet 4:14, NASB)
Mother always was good at asking the right question. It seems that true happiness is closely related to our relationship with God and receiving something through His hands—even if that something is reproof, or being reviled for His name.
God must have led me in my contentment-response to Mother’s question. Happiness and contentment are closely related. We may seek happiness through personal temporal gain, but God says,
“Godliness actually is a means of great gain, when accompanied by contentment” (1 Tim. 6:6, NASB).
I don’t know if my mother was blessed by my visit, but she blessed me. I’m happy that my godly mother influences me toward the LORD—even when her mind is compromised by Alzheimer’s.
What does it take to make happy?
“He whoso trusteth in the LORD, happy is he” (Prov. 16:20, KJV).
Finding the Happy Ending to Our Sad Story
“Oh, magnify the LORD with me, and let us exalt his name together!” Psalm 34:3 (ESV)
As I made my way across the room to my friend, her eyes widened and then fell to the floor in dismay. Although I was breaking my usual church routine by attending youth group with my son, I was confused as to why she seemed uncomfortable with my presence.
We chatted with the other youth leaders for a while before they drifted off to talk to others. Hesitantly, she asked me why I had come. I explained how curious I was about the workings of the group. I was there to get a sample of what my son would experience as a new member. With a quiver in her voice, she asked, “Did you know I’m the guest speaker today?”
I hadn’t known that she would be sharing, but suddenly I understood why she might not want me there. The topic was abortion, and my friend, the guest speaker, was telling her story for the very first time about the abortion she had chosen years before.
“I’m so afraid you’ll think less of me after you hear my story,” she confessed, her eyes filling with tears.
Stunned and saddened, I gathered my amazing, godly friend in my arms and whispered, “I love you. I could never think less of you.”
She wiped away her tears, walked to the front and started the program with the kids. By the time she finished speaking, there wasn’t a dry eye in the place.
Even though this part of her story had gone untold for decades, we all knew her current story. This was a woman who sparkled with joy and shared Jesus’ love everywhere she went. His light shone out of her and drew others irresistibly into relationship with Him. The beginning of her story about the abortion was sad, but the end of her story stood gloriously in front of us.
When she stepped down from the stage and back into the audience, I made a beeline for her, and blurted out the thought that overwhelmed me. “Not only do I not think less of you because of your story,” I said, “It has magnified God for me!”
King David more eloquently expressed how her story made me feel. He too was overwhelmed by the character and work of God:
“Your love, LORD, reaches to the heavens, your faithfulness to the skies. Your righteousness is like the highest mountains, your justice like the great deep” (Psalm 36:5-6a, NIV).
God fills the expanses. His love is limitless. His power exceeds anything I can imagine. It’s that power that changes us and brings good into even the saddest of stories.
Knowing how God had transformed my friend didn’t actually make God bigger; I just saw more of Him revealed. From knowing her story, I know other truths as well – truths about who God is and how He operates. I know God is real. I know He is at work in us. I know He can change a life and redeem a sad story into one that inspires others. I know that God is BIG.
How do we magnify the Lord together? We transparently share the stories of His work in our lives. Your life isn’t perfect. Neither is mine! But when He uses our stories for the healing and growth of others, that’s part of the redeeming of our sad stories. When we share our own imperfections instead of hiding them, it’s a chance to shine a spotlight on our hero, Jesus, the One who has healed our wounded places and changed the ashes of our sins into the beauty of a godly woman.
“Happy (blessed, fortunate, prosperous, to be envied) are the people whose God is the Lord!” – Psalm 144:15 Amplified Bible
The Declaration of Independence of the United States boldly claims that each person is “endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”
This pursuit of happiness is a driving force for many people. But the question continually is asked, what does it take to be happy? They wonder, “How can I be happy?”
A recent poll revealed that only a third of Americans are very happy. What makes the difference? One main factor was being “religious.” Those considered religious are more likely to be very happy than those who don’t consider themselves religious. And those who attend religious services regularly are more likely to be very happy than those who don’t.
These conclusions point us toward Biblical truths. But there we see that real change does not result just from being “religious” but making Jesus our Lord. Having a personal relationship with God. Being filled with the Spirit.
Many people make this quest difficult. But the Bible says it really is simple: Those “whose God is the Lord” are “happy, blessed, fortunate, prosperous, and to be envied.” This is a consistent message throughout the Bible.
We are happy when we find God’s wisdom and gain His understanding (Proverbs 3:13). We are happy when we show mercy to the poor (Proverbs 14:21), trust Him (Proverbs 16:20), fear Him (Proverbs 28:14), and keep His laws (Proverbs 29:18). We are happy as we worship Him and walkin the light of His presence (Psalm 89:15).
The world promises many paths to happiness. But Believers know that true happiness is found only in God. This results in a lasting joy, and a countenance that shows the difference He makes. With Him in our lives, we are blessed, fortunate, prosperous, and to be envied.
What are you doing to find happiness?