The Key To Happiness.

What is the key to Happiness? This is an age-old question that many of us in some way will ask ourselves at least once in our lives. It may come in several forms, such as Why am I so miserable? Why can’t I be happy? What makes me happy? It even could lead into, what is the meaning of life, the universe and everything.

In my journey through the Bible, I passed a chapter in Psalm today that described happy people, Psalm 84 which begins with the phrase, “How Lovely is your dwelling place”. I knew this one from the late 90s praise and worship song “Better is One Day” By Charlie Hall, which starts out the same, but over and over again it says in the chorus, “Better is One Day in Your Courts, better is one day in Your house, better is one day in Your courts than thousands elsewhere. ”

In this chapter, verse 4 says “How happy are those who reside in Your house, who praise You continually.” and again in verse 5, ‘Happy are the people whose strength is in You, whose hearts are set on pilgrimage.’

We can shake out a few points on where we can find happiness from these two verses. The first is that happiness comes from those who dwell with the Lord. The Second is that happiness comes when we praise Him continually. We find happiness thirdly, when we rely on God for our strength and, the fourth one is that happiness is found in those whose hearts are set on pilgrimage; I might need another post to tackle the last one because even I got a bit confused when I got there. Research was required.

Okay, great discovery, what does this mean for me? How is this supposed to make me happy? From evidence of my personal journey, I can agree that these four points below are true and I implore you to test my results for yourself.

Dwell with the Lord. This doesn’t mean that you need to go setup a hammock at church or sleep in the pews. To dwell with the Lord would mean that God becomes the center of my life, that my heart becomes a place that God resides, that my mind is always conscious of His presence. Since He is with us always, the only thing that really keeps us from “dwelling” with the Lord, is our desire to do so. For so many reasons we try to do things away from God, we try to do things on our own, maybe out of pride or ignorance. When we acknowledge His presence and His authority over our lives, submitting to His rule, we dwell with Him and throughout the Bible it says that this will bring us happiness.

Praise continually. I’ve attached a sermon by Pastor Cedric Beckles from the Bahamas below who does an excellent job at digging into this topic deeper. In this sermon Pastor Beckles tells us that the same part of our brain that worries, is the same part that also worships. He says that you cannot worry and worship at the same time. Try it, it doesn’t work. When we chose worship over worry, we give our fears over to God and we choose to praise Him for who He is and let Him take care of the rest. In fact, in Luke 12:22-34 Jesus tells His followers not to worry. Easily enough, when we are not worrying, we are able to worship, and in worship we will be happy.

Rely on God for your strength. Most days when I am serving I get to the end of my energy but still have daylight requiring its expense and responsibility begging for my attention when I have nothing left to give. A lot of times I don’t want to go on, I’m tired, exhausted, burnt out, weary is also a good word. There is no argument that serving others brings me joy, but there is an energy that seems to surge from nowhere when mine has run out. Isaiah 40:29-31 is where I go in my head when I realize that I am spent, but there is still work to be done. It says that “those who trust in the Lord will renew their strength, they will soar on wings like eagles, they will run and not grow weary; they will walk and not faint”. Instead of “I think I can, I think I can” when I feel weak like the Little Engine That Could, I go to Philippians 4:13, “I can do all things through Christ, who gives me strength”.

Set your heart on a pilgrimage. Don’t go building a set of boats to sail to the promised land wearing funny hats, to go have turkey dinner at Plimoth Rock. I have to admit that this is where my mind went, but it’s not far off from the journey that christians travel. Once we are in Christ, we become pilgrims moving to a new world, heaven, we are strangers, travellers on a journey to sainthood, sanctification through Christ. We become ambassadors from that world to the one we live in now. Our old lives become something new and as pilgrims on a journey we know that this is all temporary: pain, suffering, illness, sadness, depression…etc we can be happy knowing that it too, like a season, will pass and what waits for us on the other side is God’s perfect glory. The journey gets easier when you know what awaits you at the end and that brings happiness in the present.

Happiness does not mean that we will be millionaires. Happiness doesn’t mean that we will have a life without pain. Happiness is simply defined as contentment. The key to happiness isn’t having and chasing more, more, more, it is, by its own definition, less. We can be content, because we know that the Lord has our needs covered, and we can be happy because we dwell with the Lord. We are then able to praise without worry; we have abounding strength and our paths are set to Heaven.

Why is Easter such a big deal?

Known for the Easter Bunny, chocolate eggs and the first opportunity of the year to wear white without it being a fashion fopaux, Easter is one of two Sunday services that the most christians feel obligated and convicted to attend. I mean after all, this was the christening of the christian religion, of the church; Easter is the day we celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. With all that Easter didn’t seem to matter that much to me for some reason.

I’m not sure I fully understood Easter growing up.

Easter was a somewhat confusing set of events with Passover, Palm Sunday, Ash Wednesday, Maundy Thursday, Good Friday and Easter Sunday. Maybe it was the sudden bombardment of Christianisms, religious jargon and complete inundation of holy days and rituals that made me glaze over. Maybe I just didn’t care to be drug to church after strategically locating 10 pounds of candy in the backyard conveniently wrapped up in multi-colored plastic egg-shaped containers.

So why is Easter such a big deal?

Easter, like I said earlier, is the day we celebrate Jesus rising from the dead but I have read something recently that made it more clear than that. As if coming back to life after being dead wasn’t good enough, but I want to also point out that Jesus predicted it. (Luke 9:21-22)

So Jesus predicted what would happen to Him, and pulled it off. Not only that, He predicted other people’s actions. Jesus predicted Judas’ betrayal (Luke 22:21-22), Peter’s denial (Luke 22:34), He predicted the Roman destruction of the temple (Matthew 24:1-2).

In Math there is a concept called the transitive property which I have used to reaffirm my faith and my belief in what the Bible says as fact instead of a wild-conspiracy-concoction-of-fiction somehow compiled across several millennia by different authors. The transitive property basically says if a =b and b=c then a=c. I use this mathematical idea to convey to you, that if Jesus said, “I am the Son of God, I will die and rise again on the third day” we can then in fact surmise that since He died and rose again on the third day, that the former must also be true. Resurrection Sunday, Easter Sunday, gives Jesus’ whole claim that He was the Son of God, and His entire ministry complete validity.

Here’s another excuse to throw a party on Easter:

When we can say with confidence that Jesus is who He said He is, then we can also say with confidence that what He said must be true as well. Who would have better credentials than the Son of God? John 3 gives us our reason for celebration, specifically John 3:16, Jesus said that God loved the world so much, that He sent his only Son, that whoever believes in Him will not perish, but have eternal life.

Eternal Life! If we believe that Jesus is who He said He is, then we’re going to live forever and more than that, Paul writes that in Christ we then become children of God, (Galatians 3:26-29) with an inheritance to His Kingdom. I’ve got a spot in Heaven that God has reserved for me, that Jesus is personally preparing for me (John 14:1-3) and that is enough to get me excited. THAT is why Easter Sunday is such a big deal.

The New Normal

You are not normal. You feel trapped. You feel sad, confused, anxious, worried, distraught, depressed. You feel like the walls are closing in, you feel powerless to stop something so small, yet that miniscule thing has just disrupted your entire existence, maybe even your livelihood. Instead of going to visit people as an act of love, we are asked to stay away, to isolate, to quarantine, to purposely distance ourselves from each other.

You are completely out of control. You realize that your life is speeding down the road in a direction you haven’t chosen, at a speed way beyond safe limits, and if you’re like me it feels like you’re not even going forward. It’s not that you were unprepared or inept at managing this crisis: you’re just not driving anymore. COVID-19 has wiped out anything and everything that we remember as “normal”.

You’re not alone.

I think that is the inherent point I am trying to make. You may not feel normal right now, but none of us feel normal. We’re all in this together. Which makes what you are feeling, exactly, precisely, and beautifully normal. I must admit that there was at least one instance over the past few weeks in which I spontaneously burst into tears and you know what? That’s okay.

Our culture painted a picture that we all believed: that we were human, top of the food chain, we bent the Earth to our will, the universe was at our command and we were to conquer it and anything that opposed us. But those lies were all just smoke and mirrors. When the smoke vanished and the mirrors broke, the illusion was that we had any control at all. Recently in Nashville, we were confronted with the most terrifying of natural phenomena, the tornado, I remember feeling hopeless, fearful, truly terrified – how does someone protect themselves against something so destructive, so powerful or at least prepare for it?

The short answer was simple: you cannot.

If I cannot control something, if it is beyond my capacity as a human being, why should I even give it more than a passing thought? I think that is why Jesus told us so often not to be afraid and not to worry. There’s a passage in Luke 12 that comes to mind: Jesus is speaking and says, ‘Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to your life?

He tells us not to worry about what we will eat or drink, what we will wear, He said that the pagans run after such things. God the Father knows that you need them but we are to seek His kingdom and all that will be added unto us. (Luke 12:29-31) God’s got this. He WANTS us to rely on Him for our needs. God’s got this. Say it again. It is this confidence that we have, this hope in Him and the eternal life beyond this word that really reminds us that no thing really matters in this world. What matters is His kingdom, and the people around us and connected to us.

So, Chris, what then do you suggest we do when we are told to stay home and do nothing? What do we do with all this free time now that we are no longer obsessively worrying about this virus?

It’s a good time to read. It’s a great time to pray. It’s a good time to connect with people. This is an unprecedented time yes, but even more an unprecedented opportunity to connect with God, to read your Bible and to spread the love of Christ simply by picking up the phone, sending a text, hosting a zoom bible study or hey-o, writing a blog. All your excuses have been thrown out the window, and it is obvious to me that God wants to spend time with you. I can say that with the utmost confidence simply because He has gone through extraordinary measures to do so in the past, what makes today any different?

The God of the universe has been waiting for you, to spend time with you. I think now is a good time to make that a habit and our new normal.