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4 Ingredients to a Happy Life

Many folks in certain circles look skeptically, if not derisively, on statements that appear to over-simplify important topics. “4 steps to this” and “10 rules for that”, they mock, “life just isn’t that easy.” As such, I expect a title like that above will elicit, at the very least, some under-the-breath contempt. Worse than that, some Christians seem to have gotten into their noggins that “true spirituality” means that we should no longer interested in happiness at all. “Happiness?” they ask, “Happiness? We are interested in holiness, not happiness,” never imagining the two might not be mutually exclusive. “God,” they opine further, “is interested in His glory…not your happiness.” And contented they go on in this miserable mindset, having thoroughly proven their case in their own heads. For such Christians, it would appear that the joy of being miserable is the only joy we should anticipate this side of heaven.

But I humbly suggest that no less a theologian than John Calvin saw life differently. Readers of his commentaries will discover a man very much concerned with the blessing and beauty of a happy life. For example, Psalm 132:9 says “Let your saints shout for joy.” Calvin on this text says “the rejoicing which is spoken of has reference to a happy life.” In Psalm 128 the Psalmist says to the saints “blessing and prosperity will be yours.” On this thought Calvin remarks “that even in this pilgrimage, or earthly place of sojourn” that the Psalmist assures God’s people “they shall enjoy a happy life.”

Thus, I was not surprised when reading this morning Calvin’s comments on Psalm 89 to hear him remark on the virtues of mercy, truth, peace and righteousness, “that nothing can contribute more effectually to the promotion of a happy life, than that these four virtues should flourish and rule supreme.” These noble qualities, says Calvin, contribute “to the promotion of a happy life.”

How happy is your life? Don’t confuse pleasures with happiness. Many rich people have more pleasures than they know what to do with, but are miserable folk. Happiness is something more solid, deeper, lasting, and real. Biographers will tell you that Calvin was a sickly man. But he found the secret to happiness. Have you?

Mercy – What mercy have you shown to others lately? What about mercy to yourself? Some people are almost morbidly hard on themselves. Stop it. And start showing (not just feeling…but doing) mercy to others. Find some way to extend mercy to someone around you today. Just.Help.Someone. You’ll be happier. I think the Good Samaritan was a happy man.

Truth – Stop listening to the lies constantly being told you by the world, the devil, and even your own heart. Get some truth into yourself. Read God’s Word. And then share this truth with someone else. Spread some good news for once. Don’t pretend to be something you are not. Ask someone smarter than you for advice. Be a truth-seeker. It’s a miserable life that is littered with lies. Tell the truth.

Peace – Help end an argument, rather than prolonging it. Spread good news and good things about others. Let stuff go, rather than making every disagreement a declaration of war. Settle your accounts with the Lord, confess your sins, make peace with God through Christ. Say you’re sorry to someone today. Do something nice for an enemy. You’ll go to bed happier tonight.

Righteousness – Do the good stuff. The Lord has told us what the “good stuff” is. Buy a coffee for a stranger. Call your friend on the phone. Tip larger than normal. Sing a song of praise to God. Compliment the grocery store clerk. Go to church and worship. Thank someone…just for being kind, sensitive, helpful, or a good example. When confronted with a hard choice…do the RIGHT thing. Take stuff you aren’t using and offer it to others. This is ground-level righteousness. Just do it. You’ll be happier my friend.

Do you think God isn’t interested in your happiness? He is. He just wants you to understand that happiness doesn’t come through material possessions, promotions, fame, health, or having hundreds of followers online. Happiness is so much better than the temporary pleasure those other things might bring. Be happy my friends. God bless.

Photo by Nick Fewings on Unsplash

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