What exactly is happiness? It means different things to different people, and it is greatly influenced by context. Those in war zones compared to those in the suburbs will each have very different perspectives. So finding an agreed upon definition of happiness can be elusive.
If we start with the fact that we’re all humans and experience emotions then we can, at least at a high level, define happiness. Wikipedia notes that happiness is a “mental or emotional state of well-being characterized by positive or pleasant emotions ranging from contentment to intense joy.”
Contentment to intense joy? This is broad. Intense joy could be a flash – winning the lottery, eating an incredibly good meal, a belly-aching laugh. Being content while struggling through a long battle with cancer is entirely different.
You could stretch this to being psyched to eat a box of donuts, or smoke a cigarette all the way to feeling content that a loved one suffering from a chronic illness has finally passed on.
Clearly these are examples that people actually use to define happiness. Some healthy. Some not. In short, they vary.
We could leave it at this – that there are simply too many variables and therefore there must be multiple forms and definitions of happiness. Or, we could see what God thinks.
God loves us, and he obviously wants what’s best for us. Depending upon one’s circumstance this could mean a lot of different things. Maybe we’re living the dream – big house, big job, big money – but God thinks working in Africa to feed the poor is what’s best for you.
Or perhaps you’re a single mom struggling to make ends meet and nothing on the outside changes. However, the peace and joy and contentment from knowing God radiates out of you like a raging river to the point where people say, wow, how do I do that?
And these are just the outward manifestations of God’s work. What about the lessons one has to learn to overcome their issues with anger, pride, lust, or greed? These journeys are rarely pleasant, but they lead to happiness. It’s God’s way of bringing us to our complete selves.
This latter view of happiness is very different. It’s a longer view, starting with trust in God and then building upon that foundation. Happiness built on this is, well…happiness.
How can you be happy? God only knows – seriously.
Thanks for reading,
~ Ted Olson