I Just Want To Be Happy
Keith Phillips, DMin, LPC, LPC-S
A recent associated press survey concluded that only 14% say they are really “very happy,” this is down from 31% in last year’s data. A Pew Survey stated that 36% of active religious people define themselves as “very happy.” It is no surprise that self-help book sales are skyrocketing. Though these sources can be encouraging, there is not much help within ourselves alone.
Neuroscientist strongly emphasize the correlation of the neurotransmitters dopamine and serotonin in our brain and our level of happiness. They offer guidance for increasing our dopamine and serotonin levels:
1. Daily 15-20 minute outside walks
2. Foods that affect the neurotransmitters dopamine and serotonin in our brain.
3. Exercise daily
4. Goal setting
5. Opening shades and curtains for natural light in the home
6. Resist isolation-discipline yourself to be intentional in your social life
7. Increase the humor/laughter in your life
I suggest these listed points to many; they do make a difference. The validity of these actions is not in question, but their totality is. The bulk of our problem is thinking that happiness is something we search for. It has been said that trying to find happiness is something like trying to fall asleep. As long as one consciously and zealously tries to grasp it, it never comes. Looking for the meaning of life in life is futile. Life does not have that capability, it is a pointless endeavor.
The bulk of our problem is thinking that happiness is something we search for.
. . . happiness results from an inward look and an upward look.
The Effect of Salvation on Happiness
As opposed to the contemporary concept of surface happiness, Jesus, in the Gospel of Matthew, emphasized that happiness results from an inward look and an upward look. Up to that point the religious rulers of his day gave their highest priority to the external, not intimacy with God. Happiness or the life of the “blessed” has its origin in the soul. It’s not just that we have a soul; we are a soul.
“And the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul” (Gen. 2:7).
“Our soul is the internal invisible inner life of secrecy that connects our thoughts, sensations, emotions, our will, and integrates them into our entire being.”  The initial process of addressing soul care is accepting Christ as our Savior (Rom. 10:9-13) followed by prioritizing an intimate relationship with him.
The presence of Christ in our lives is essential for happiness. Jesus says, “I came that they may have life and have it abundantly” (Jn. 10:10). This means that Christ offers the life that only he can provide and he does it abundantly. Just consider the magnitude of Jesus saying “abundant.” Faith in Christ initiates happiness.
The Effect of Three Hindrances on Happiness
As believers it is important to be aware that there is a 1, 2, 3 punch strategy that can paralyze our joy and prioritizes our total destruction. First is this world system. It intentionally attempts to lure Christians through its pleasures and to take our worship from God. As followers of Christ, we are despised by the world system.
“Again, the devil took Him up on an exceedingly high mountain, and showed Him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory. And he said to Him, All these things I will give You if You will fall down and worship me” (Matthew 4:8-9).
“If the world hates you, you know that it hated Me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love its own. Yet because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you” (John 15:18-19).
Secondly, the enemy of happiness is our sin nature. Our flesh wants its way and it does not care the price it must pay. Our flesh will sacrifice itself to satisfy itself. The Apostle Paul said,
“But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members” (Rom. 7:23).
“For the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary to one another, so that you do not do the things that you wish” (Gal. 5:17).
The final enemy of happiness is the devil himself. “Be sober; be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour” (I Peter 5:8).
“For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places” (Eph. 6:12).
Therefore in summation we have concluded that there are three continuous and intentionally designed oppositions to one’s true happiness. Why? Because true happiness would be glorifying to God and good for us. The Bible makes is very clear that the devil is real and does not want this to happen. Please do not discard this as a myth or “church talk.” A look around clearly indicates the suffering of people and a chaotic world.
There are three continuous and intentionally designed oppositions to ones true happiness.
There are some things in our lives that need to be removed if happiness / joy / peace is to move in.
The Effect of Decisions on Happiness
How can we respond to the three specific happiness killing areas that we cannot change? One of God’s greatest gifts is choice. I can choose how I respond to life. Choice is an incredible thing.
“But Daniel purposed in his heart that he would not defile himself with the portion of the king’s delicacies, nor with the wine which he drank; therefore he requested of the chief of the eunuchs that he might not defile himself” (Dan. 1:8).
Daniel knew he was in a situation that he could not control. But he could make choices that were not harmful to himself spiritually, emotionally, and physically. He trusted that God would honor the intent of his heart, and God did. We can choose to invite God to be the solution of our quest for peace and happiness. Within the confines of the preceding statement is the willingness to accept another truth. If I keep on doing what I have always been doing, I will continue to get what I have always gotten, a life without happiness / contentment. Nothing changes in my life until I change the way I think. The proven formula is: Thought = Feeling = Response/Behavior. My feelings change when my thoughts change. These affect my choices / behaviors in life. It is imperative that I choose to break the cycle or circle of my negative / irrational habitual thought patterns.
“For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds, casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ” (2 Cor. 10:3-6).
Think about it. Our enemy’s goals are against God, and his intent is to use the mind that God gave us for his destructive purposes. It does not have to be this way. We can have the abundant life that Jesus offers. We can be more than conquerors. There are some things (stronghold thinking) in our lives that need to be removed if happiness / joy / peace is to move in. Emotional baggage is reality for many. Burdens or worries are a reality. Life is at times, very difficult. Pain is still pain, past or present. God understands and he frees us of spiritual and emotional bondage, whether it is guilt, shame, anger, fear, rejection…etc.
Emotional baggage keeps a person in spiritual bondage. It…
- keeps a person from being the kind of person God wants the individual to be
- keeps a person from doing what God calls the individual to do
- keeps a person paralyzed with doubt, fear, and self-recrimination
- keeps a person from developing a healthy self-image
The Effect of Serving Others on Happiness
When we surrender our emotional struggles and needs to Christ we are candidates for a supernatural blessing. We are created to be at our best, our happiest, when we yield to God as he works through us to serve others. When we magnify our Savior more than we do our problems, God takes over. Empathy becomes our modus operandi. We feel someone’s hurt with them. Our goal is action and service, not just sympathy. Anytime we cooperate with the flow of the Holy Spirt, we become under the influence of joy.
Serving is a powerful enhancement of one’s spiritual and mental health. Is it not true that our mind tells us just the opposite? We instead have a desire to separate ourselves from others, to isolate. Just consider that the devil wants us alone so that he has our full attention to hear more of his lies. Friend, extend your arm, open your hand and say, talk to the hand devil, cause I’m not listening!
I have listed Five P’s (needs) for a healthy believer. Four of the five refer to serving others. Serving others is a healthy and Christ center choice toward happiness.
- Personhood: A healthy self-love and self-awareness.
- Pastor: An elder that shepherds us to be like Christ.
- Partner: A spiritual friend or peer to encourage and hold us accountable.
- Protégé: A fellow believer to teach and mentor.
- Prospect: An unbeliever to love, pray for, and influence toward faith in Christ.
God wants us to take care of ourselves because he loves us and he wants us healthy for ministry to others. He wants our happiness to be the overflow of our holiness, a fruit of our relationship with him. The following says it well…
“The person who is wise, will see their life as more like a reservoir than a canal. The canal simultaneously pours out what it receives; the reservoir retains the water until it is filled, then discharges the overflow without loss to itself”  . . . Today there are many in the Church who act like canals, the reservoirs are far too rare.
We can be intentional about keeping our reservoir full. But also be mindful of the additional guidelines when you are not feeling well.
- If you are having feelings of sadness and hopelessness, not eating well, experiencing a loss of interest in normal activities, or not sleeping well, and these are happening for 2 weeks or more, please go see your physician. Always consult him / her when you’re not feeling well physically or emotionally.
- Prioritize a daily alone time with God. Approach it as communion with God. Begin a thought out Bible reading plan, talk to God, and allow time to be still before God to listen for him.
- Get connected to a Bible believing church for spiritual and social growth.
- Tell someone how you are feeling and / or seek counseling that will benefit you biblically and psychologically. In most instances this will be a licensed professional counselor that has a biblical worldview.
- Focus on and continuously educate yourself on how much God values you. When we are persuaded of our value, assured of our protection and provisions, and confident of his faithfulness, our reservoir of hope / happiness will sustain us and bless others.
When we magnify our Savior more than we do our problems, God takes over.
“Americans Are the Unhappiest They’ve Been in 50 years, Poll Finds,” NBC News, accessed October 9, 2020, https://www.nbcnews.com/politics/politics-news/americans-are-unhappiest-they-ve-been-50-years-poll-finds-n1231153.
 “Religion’s Relationship to Happiness, Civic Engagement and Health Around the World,” Pew Research Center, accessed October 9, 2020, https://www.pewforum.org/2019/01/31/religions-relationship-to-happiness-civic-engagement-and-health-around-the-world/.
 Larry Crabb, Effective Biblical Counseling (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan,1977), 23.
 John Ortberg, Soul Keeping: Caring for the Most Important Part of You (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan,2014), 11.
 Charles Stanley, The Source of My Strength (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 1994), 3.
 “Brewers Relational Model of Spiritual Formation,” Christian Spirituality and the Ministry of Counseling, Liberty University, Week 3 Lecture 2, accessed May 28, 2015, http://counseling4christians.com/Videos/IntegrationDocuments/Student%20Lecture%20Notes%20Weeks%203%20%26%204.pdf
 Susan Mutto, “Living Contemplatively and Serving God in the World: Two Sides of the Coin of Christian Ministry,” Journal of Spiritual Formation & Soul Care 6, no. 1 (2013): 86, accessed May 21, 2016, ATLASerials, EBSCOhost.