Happiness is part of the American dream-but one that is quite elusive. It is like a fleeting shadow that is often tantalizing close, but just beyond our reach. In an attempt to apprehend happiness, we often try to acquire a number of other things. Money, for example, is often mistaken as a way of capturing happiness. While being able to provide for one”s basic needs financially can make life less stressful, it doesn”t guarantee that we will experience real happiness. In fact, happiness does not rise in direct proportion to one”s level of income. If anything, it is just the opposite. Research has shown that those who make money their goal in life are at greater risk for depression, anxiety, and relational problems.
To make our situation even worse, research by Princeton psychologist Daniel Kahneman has shown that we are actually bad at predicting what will make us happy. We tend to think that we know what will make us happy-money, relationships, fame, etc. But the evidence suggests that this is not the case. Time and time again, we find our dreams of happiness elusive.
What does the Bible have to say on this issue? To some the topic of happiness and the Bible might sound like an oxymoron. The Bible and religion is something solemn and serious? The word “happy” seems rather flippant. In fact, the word is surprisingly absent from most modern translations. It only occurs in a handful of passages in the Old Testament, and not once in the New Testament. Although the actual word “happy” does not appear frequently in the Bible, the Bible offers much practical insight on how our dreams of happiness can become reality.
- Romans 15:13
- Proverbs 16:20
- Psalm 146:3-5
- Job 8:21
- John 10:10
- Philippians 4:4
Questions for Discussion:
- The dictionary defines “happiness” as “characterized by good luck,” and lists fortunate, lucky, and providential as synonyms. From a biblical perspective, do you agree with this definition? Why?
- Based on your definition of happiness above, who, in your opinion, was the “happiest” person in the Bible? Why?
- Is true “happiness” really possible in a world full of sin and suffering? Explain your answer?
- Our lesson states that a “strong, stable family is a crucial component in creating happy lives.” What do you see as the purpose and role of the family as it relates to happiness? Is such an expectation realistic or is it doomed to result in failure and discontent? Is happiness a quality that depends on some sort of external stimulus, or is it an inner quality?