A Refreshingly Pleasant Primer on Happiness

by Rob Tims

Listening to my young children pray is insightful. Given their age, the bulk of the prayers are filled with gratitude for their many “blessings.” More recently, this list included their baby brother, their baby sister, their great-grandmother, and Chuy’s (a tex-mex restaurant). In brief, their happiness, not unlike many of ours, is tied to their experiences. They consider themselves “blessed” to the extent they experience or possess things that make them happy.

I cannot deny that happiness in some form lies in having or experiencing such things, and Psalm 1 does not deny that some happiness can be related to experiences. Yet what it does assert is that there is a deeper happiness rooted in the Word of God.

First, notice that happiness is related to our relationship with sin. Verse 1 reads, “How happy is the one who does not walk in the advice of the wicked or stand in the pathway with sinners or sit in the company of mockers!” Put plainly, there is no true happiness in thinking about a particular sin, behaving sinfully, or belonging to sin and mocking those who don’t. It sounds painfully obvious, and yet it is so easily forgotten or dismissed. The allure of happiness in sin is far more powerful than we at first acknowledge. We might pursue happiness in this way to the point that we conclude true happiness is a myth.

But, happiness can be found in delighting in God’s Word. Verse 2-3: “ Instead, his delight is in the Lord’s instruction, and he meditates on it day and night. He is like a tree planted beside flowing streams that bears its fruit in its season and whose leaf does not wither. Whatever he does prospers.” In contrast to finding in happiness by delighting in sin, the Bible says that there is happiness in delighting in holiness. We cannot deny the direct, causal relationship between happiness and what we delight in. If our delights is in what is right, it has a right effect on us.

Which is why the Psalmist concludes this way: “The wicked are not like this; instead, they are like chaff that the wind blows away. Therefore the wicked will not stand up in the judgment, nor sinners in the assembly of the righteous. For the Lord watches over the way of the righteous,
but the way of the wicked leads to ruin.” You see, happiness and righteousness are friends, as are sin and destruction. You can’t have happiness without holiness, and you will only get destruction by seeking after sin, though it may have the initial appeal of happiness.

It’s often cute and perhaps even age-appropriate for my children to find happiness in their stuff or experiences, but to encourage them to stay there is to sorely mislead them into thinking that happiness is found anywhere but in holiness. Not only must I instruct them in what is true, I must model it for them as well. Truly happy children know parents who are truly happy, and I’m happy to help them know true happiness.

Rob Tims is husband to Holly and father to Trey, Jono, Abby Jane and Luke. He’s the author of Southern Fried Faith: Confusing Christ and Culture in the Bible Belt, and manages the team behind smallgroup.com at LifeWay Christian Resources in Nashville. He writes regularly at RobTims.com and blogs every Friday at Forward Progress.

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