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What Does the Bible Say about Worldly Happiness?

The good news is that this eternal happiness is not something we must wait for. In God’s grace, we are invited to experience this in our lives today. God wishes to bless us with the happiness that is rooted in the Spirit abiding within us.

Woman in trees of cherry blossoms

Happiness is a tricky thing. It is a driving force in our lives. We all want to be happy. More importantly, God wants us to be happy.

God longs for God’s goodness to be realized in our daily lives. True happiness is not something to be experienced only in the next life, it is something God wishes to bless us with right now.

The tricky part is we do not always know what makes us truly happy. Like Adam and Eve in the garden, we can easily be swayed by what is “pleasing for the eyes” (Genesis 3:6).

Too often we swap happiness with pleasure only to find that it creates a spiritual disease within us. Happiness must be more than merely getting what we want.

This, ultimately, leads us to all types of questions. How do we navigate the complex road or true happiness? How do we know what will truly make us happy?

Are there any clues in Scripture about where happiness can be found? Below are three biblical keys to how to live your life in full happiness.

1. Recognize the Insufficiency of Worldly Happiness

The happiness that God wishes to bless us with is rooted in God’s vision for our lives. It can be tempting to believe that happiness is based on a life devoid of struggle or strife. Unfortunately, this is not a biblical truth. Jesus is forthright about the difficulties his followers will face.

Never once does he promise a life of ease or problem-free bliss. Jesus plainly discloses, “In this world, you will have trouble” (John 16:33), and “everyone will hate you because of me” (Luke 21:17). Given such statements, where can true happiness be found?

It is important to recognize that the world around us can only offer so much. Sure, some of what it offers may be good and pleasurable, but it will always be elusive and transitory. The things of this world are easily destroyed by the decay of rust and the actions of thieves (Matthew 6:19-20).

Thus, centering our lives on what we can receive from the world condemns us to a pale imitation of true happiness. We will never be truly satisfied. Jesus says, “What good is it for a person to gain the whole world and forfeit the soul? What can one give in exchange for their soul?” (Matthew 16:26).

The point that Jesus is making is that that the deep satisfaction of our hearts can never be found in the baubles of the world. Internally, we long for something more.

True, biblical, happiness is found in the deep and abiding satisfaction of our innermost desires. We seek not earthly treasures, but heavenly ones. Psalm 37:4 says, “Delight yourself in the Lord and he will give you the desires of your heart.”

The fun thing about this is that the very delight God gives us is God’s very self — the one in whom we delight! Whenever the Bible speaks about happiness (either through the terms “delight,” “joy,” or “blessedness”), it is frequently linked to an experience of God’s presence in our lives.

Happiness is not found in worldly trinkets. This is because, ultimately, this is not what we long for. We long for the internal completeness, the harmony, that comes from being in the presence of God.

The good news is that this heaven-based happiness is not something we must wait for. In God’s grace, we are invited to experience this in our lives today. God wishes to bless us with the happiness that is rooted in the Spirit of God abiding in us.

2. Rejoice in the Presence of the Lord

While happiness is a state of contentment and satisfaction, it is also an active experience. It is near impossible to be happy and not express it. We smile. We laugh. We sing. The same is true regarding our experience of true spiritual happiness.

If happiness, biblically speaking, is a state of spiritual satisfaction in the presence of God, this will produce the activity of praise and rejoicing in our lives. Happiness is rooted in praise.

James specifically writes “Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray. Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing praise” (James 5:13). Rejoicing helps us recognize the connection between our happiness and the presence of God.

Praise results from the acknowledgment of the Lord’s activity in our lives. Furthermore, as the Lord is always active, we can always usher praise.

We can always rejoice that the Lord is present in our lives, working in ways that is deeper than we can imagine or dream. This creates an inner spiritual confidence within us, one untouched by the circumstances of our lives.

Of course, this does not mean we will never struggle. There will be times where we face sadness, or anger, or frustration. True biblical happiness is not a denial of the hardships in life. It is the deep and profound contentment that comes from knowing that we are never alone.

The Lord never leaves nor forsakes us and is with us “even to the end of the world” (Matthew 28:20). This is God’s promise to us, a promise in which we rejoice.

3. Realize Your Identity Is in Christ

This world offers a myriad of voices, all vying for attention. Each voice tells us who we ought to be or what we ought to do. These voices cast an ever-shifting picture of success, popularity, fame, or legacy.

Trying to “keep up with the Jones’s” can be exhausting at the best of times, and in the end, such efforts will always be rendered void by the constant change in ideal.

This can create deep unhappiness within us because we never feel comfortable with who we are. Biblical happiness, however, is to know who we are in Christ.

In Christ, our identity is set. It cannot be taken away or denied. It does not change. We are people crafted in the image of God and redeemed by Christ’s love. This truth overwhelms even the strongest of contrary voices.

The Book of Ephesians declares, “We are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus” (2:10). The Greek word for “handiwork” is the word poiema — it is the word out of which we derive “poem” or “poetic.”

You are God’s poem. You are God’s work of creativity and artistry. Nothing contradicts this fundamental truth. Knowing our identity in Christ helps us stand against any dissatisfaction, frustration, or any spiritual disease that we may carry within.

We become deeply and unshakably happy because we know that “neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:38-39).

When this truth becomes the foundation of our identity, it also becomes the foundation of our happiness. We are happy because we know ourselves to be the beloved of God.

What Does This Mean?

Yes, happiness can be a tricky thing. We tend to assume that happiness is earthly, defined by the occurrences and happenstances of life. This simply is not true. The truth is happiness is a spiritual attitude of confidence and contentment.

We only become truly happy when we realize that the transitory world cannot give us the spiritual satisfaction we long for. Our ultimate desire, that soul-deep happiness to which we all long for, is found in the presence of Jesus.

This means that being happy — truly happy — is to accept and live within the everlasting love of Jesus.

For further reading:

What Is the Difference Between Joy and Happiness?

Is it Biblical to Find Happiness?

Why Should We Not Be Conformed to This World?

What Does the Bible Say about the World?

Are Desires Inherently Evil?

Photo Credit: ©iStock/Getty Images Plus/Sasha_Suzi


SWN authorReverend Kyle Norman is the Rector of the Anglican Parish of Holy Cross in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. He has a doctorate in Spiritual Formation and is often asked to write or speak on the nature of the Christian community, and the role of Spiritual disciplines in Christian life. His personal blog can be found here.