Olsen Park Church of Christ


Introduction. What is Happiness? Is it a constant feeling that all is well? Is it smiling all the time? Is it a peace of mind through all circumstances?

o   Aristotle said, “More than anything else, men and women seek happiness.”

o   “The constitution only guarantees the American people the right to pursue happiness. You have to catch it yourself” (Benjamin Franklin).

Psychology has focused much attention on depression, grief, and unhappiness but until recently little research has been done on the subject of happiness.

I. What Brings Happiness?

A.       Modern research believes circumstances such as our job, income, health, positive social conditions, and pleasant circumstances account for only about 10% of what determines if one person is happy, and another person is unhappy.

B.      Most of what determines happiness is the result of intentional activity—i.e. things you choose to do (Sonja Lyubomirsky, PhD. Professor of Psychology, UC Riverside).

C.      It is believed that the chemical process that goes on in the brain that contributes to the emotional feelings associated with happiness are influenced by physical activity.

D.     The adage “use it or lose it” seems to apply to happiness as well as other physical abilities. The deliberate choice of activities that contribute to happiness help preserve the ability to be happy (P. Read Montigue PhD., Professor of Neuroscience, Baylor College of Medicine and Gregory Berns, MD. PhD., Professor of Psychiatry, Emory University).

II. What Does the Bible Say About Happiness?

A.      Comes from a relationship with God (Ps. 146:5).

B.      Comes from trusting the Lord (Prov. 16:20).

C.      Happy people are not always people who have no problems. Often the happiest people are those who have learned how to take horrible circumstances and refuse to allow them to destroy them. For the Christian this demands trust in the Lord.

D.     I saw a documentary entitled Happy that featured a woman who had been in a horrible traffic accident in which her face was destroyed by being dragged by a truck in the gravel. Her marriage was destroyed, her life changed forever—but she was one of the happiest people you would ever meet.

E.      Comes from reverence toward God (Prov. 28:14).

F.      Comes from keeping God’s law (Prov. 29:18).

G.      Comes from being corrected by God (Job 5:17).

H.     Comes from eating from the work of our hands (Ps. 128:2).

1        Psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, Professor Psycholgy Claremont Graduate University, has written a book entitled Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience (Harper & Row, 1990), which argues that happiness is often connected with activities that people find that give them a sense of focus. Much like an athlete who “gets in the zone”—it might be a hobby, an goal, a project—it allows the person who gets into “the flow” to lose a focus on trouble, worries, or even self.

I.        Comes from the blessing of children (127:5).

J.        Modern research has shown that some of the happiest people are those who have family and friends that impact our life on a regular basis (Dr. Ed. Deiner, Professor of Psychology, University of Illinois).

K.      This draws us out of ourselves and changes our focus.

L.      Comes from finding wisdom (Prov. 3:13).

M.    Comes from kindness to others (Prov. 14:21).

N.     Psychologists speak of those who are intrinsically or extrinsically motivate.  Extrinsic motivations are things like mony, image, and status. Intrinsic motivations are things like personal growth, relationships, and community feeling (i.e. a desire to help). Those extrinsically motivated are statistically more discontent—less happy. (Tim Kasser, PhD, Professor of Psycholgy, Knox University).

O.      Comes from guarding what we allow ourselves to “approve” (Rom. 14:22).

Kyle Pope 2013

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