A Study of Happy
Our English word "happy" is simply defined as, "Fortunate or lucky...cheerful... contented characterized by or indicative of pleasure ." (Random House College Dictionary). The biblical presentation of "happy" is more substantive. For instance, the Bible does not present happiness as an experience that just happens because of luck or some shallow euphoric state of mind. One, according to the Bible, can be happy while being corrected by God, suffering for the sake of righteousness, and being reproached for the name of Christ (Job 5: 17; I Pet. 3: 14; 4: 14). There are five Hebrew and two Greek words translated happy in the scriptures. One Hebrew word means "to be at rest, safe" (see Matt. 11: 28-30). Some scholars suggest it would be better if many of these words were primarily translated "blessed" instead of "happy." A comparison of John 13: 17 in the King James and American Standard renditions illustrates my point. The King James has the following: "If ye know these things, happy are ye if ye do them." The American Standard renders makarior thus, "If ye know these things, blessed are ye if ye do them." (It is interesting that the King James translated makarior "blessed" in the beatitudes of Jesus, Matt. 5: 3 ff.)
The question we want to raise and answer in this study is what exactly is happiness and how can it be acquired! Is happiness inherited, purchased with money, or is there some recipe that man has for happiness? Our study consists of three primary sections, those whom the Bible pronounces as happy or blessed; some common synonyms of "happy," and some examples of biblical happiness.
Those whom the Bible pronounces as happy. The Bible says that those who fear the Lord are happy. In the King James, the writer of Psalms 128 and Solomon use the word blessed and happy to describe the man who fears the Lord (Ps. 128: 1, 2; Prov. 28: 13, 14). "Fear of the Lord" entails the matter of reverence and respect for God.
Happy are those who keep God's laws. Agur wrote, "Where there is no vision, the people perish: but he that keepeth the law, happy is he" (Prov. 29: 18). This is essentially what Jesus said in John 13: 17: "If ye know these things, happy (blessed, dm) are ye if ye do them." It is especially needful that points be made about God's laws in this age of lawlessness and disrespect for authority. In fact, one cannot be in a covenant relationship with God (the real source of happiness) without being in a correct posture relative to God's commandments (I Jn. 2: 3-6; 5: 3).
Happy are those who have children. The Bible says, "Lo, children are an heritage of the Lord: and the fruit of the womb is his reward. As arrows are in the hand of a mighty man; so are children of the youth" (Ps. 127: 3, 4). The language concludes by saying, "Happy is the man that hath his quiver full of them; they shall not be ashamed, but they shall speak with the enemies in the gate" (vs. 5). Children can be the source of grief, but there is also much joy associated with children (Prov. 3: 1-4).
Happy are those who do not condemn self. Paul wrote, "Hast thou faith? Have it to thyself before God. Happy is he that condemneth not himself in the thing which he alloweth" (Rom. 14: 22). The "faith" under consideration in Romans 14 is subjective faith, not God's revelation (cp. Jude 3). Paul is addressing matters not taught on in God's word; matters that are doctrinally and morally indifferent (see chapter, vs. 14, click on "Romans 14, an Overview" to read more). In the circumstances of Romans 14, one needed to respect one's conscience and not violate it (vs. 23).
Those who trust in the Lord. "He that handleth a matter wisely shall find good: and whoso trutheth in the Lord, happy is he, " wrote the wise man (Prov. 16: 20). To trust in the Lord means that we look to him for guidance and instruction. It also means that we do what God has told us without questioning and doubting. Some say, "I cannot see how baptism is for the forgiveness of sins." The word teaches that water baptism is for the remission of sins and if we trust in the Lord, we will accept such teaching (Acts 2: 38, 22: 16).
Those who require wisdom. Wisdom and knowledge are closely akin. Wisdom, strictly distinguished, is knowledge in application. Many are unhappy because they lack wisdom. Their judgments and choices in life are wrong and lead to misery and failure. Hear the wise man: "Happy is the man that findeth wisdom, and the man that getteth understanding" (Prov. 3: 13, see also 14-18). Wisdom is without equal (vs. 15). The way man acquires wisdom is by learning and doing God's teachings (Prov. 1: 1-6; Matt. 7: 24-29).
A look at words that mean the same as happiness. The scriptures contain many synonyms of "happy" or blessed. These references also contain the associated details and circumstances to the acquirement and enjoyment of these conditions. For instance, there is "pleasure" (2 Cor. 12: 10). This pleasure is the result of a real relationship with God, even amid persecutions and such like (ibid.). "Delight," "contentment," and "loving life" are all synonymous with happiness (Ps. 40: 8; Heb. 13: 5; I Pet. 3: 10). In addition, we read of being "glad" and "rejoicing" (Ps. 126: 3; I Pet. 1: 8). In all these circumstances, there is the relationship with God and the submission to God's teaching.
Some examples of biblical happiness. Keep in mind what we have learned of biblical happiness, how it entails a state of blessedness and the understanding that all true blessings come from God (Jas. 1: 17). With these matters in mind, please consider the following passage that depicts the state of happiness:
"What man is he that desireth life, and loveth many days, that he may see good? Keep thy tongue from evil, and thy lips from speaking guile. Depart from evil, and do good; seek peace, and pursue it. The eyes of the Lord are upon the righteous, and his ears are open unto their cry. The face of the Lord is against them that do evil, to cut off the remembrance of them from the earth. The righteous cry, and the Lord heareth, and delivereth them out of all their troubles. The Lord is nigh unto them that are of a broken heart; and saveth such as be of a contrite spirit. Many are the afflictions of the righteous: but the Lord delivereth him out of them all. He keepeth all his bones: not one of them is broken. Evil shall slay the wicked: and they that hate the righteous shall be desolate. The Lord redeemeth the soul of his servants: and none of them that trust in him shall be desolate." (Ps. 34: 12-22).
In Acts 2, we read of people who learned they were lost and cried out, "Men and brethren, what shall we do?" (Acts 2: 37.) We read how these people were told to "repent and be baptized for the remission of sins " (vs. 38). Peter pointed out to these people that they had a responsibility in saving their own souls (vs. 40). As a result, we then read "Then they that gladly received his word were baptized " (vs. 41). After they became Christians, they remained steadfast (vs. 42). We are told that they had "gladness and singleness of heart" (vs. 46).
In conclusion, true happiness is not shallow and based on external stimuli. True happiness is not material, is not inherited, and cannot be acquired through some recipe of human origin. Beloved, true happiness is based on a scriptural relationship with God. Happiness is a state of blessedness that is derived from this relationship. Knowing our origin, purpose, and destiny is requisite to happiness (Gen. 1; Eccl. 12: 13; Matt. 25: 46). As seen, biblical happiness can be experienced even amid difficulties and misfortunes. Jesus speaks of men hating, separated from, and reproaching the Christian. Yet, Jesus said "Rejoice ye in that day, and leap for joy: for, behold, your reward is great in heaven " (Lk. 6: 22, 23). Herein lies true happiness that we all should seek.