I recently stumbled upon a list of the things happy people do differently. I was intrigued to hear their secret. Interestingly, it wasn’t the typical “self-help,” pep-talk kind of advice you might expect. In fact, it sounded more than a little familiar. Several of these secular secrets to happiness look a lot like the Creator’s blueprint for holiness. Maybe that’s because His commandments are not burdensome and His words really will bring joy to our hearts! (Ps. 19:8, 1 Jn 5:23) In fact, following Jesus is the secret to a happy life. So here it is: the happiness list – with a biblical twist!
Don’t hold grudges.
Unforgiveness saps our souls of strength. In fact, in Paul’s letter to the Corinthian believers, he actually connects unforgiveness with giving place to Satan’s schemes against our lives (2 Cor. 2:8-11). Matthew 6:14-15 says that whether or not we forgive others will prove whether we have really been forgiven. Not holding a grudge can be serious soul-work requiring regular maintenance. “We need to bear with each other, forgiving one another, if anyone has a complaint against another; even as Christ forgave you, so you also must do” (Col. 3:13) Is there anyone in your life that you need to forgive? Is there something that gets your blood boiling just thinking about it? Choosing to forgive and release a grudge and leaving the judgment to God is a sure way to start experiencing a happier life!
Treat everyone with kindness.
Ephesians 4:32: And be kind and tenderhearted to each other. We might think being a strong person looks like giving others a “piece of our mind” when we’re snubbed or stepped on, but, 1 Peter 1:7 describes kindness is a sign of true maturity in Christ. Fashion comes and goes but kindness will never go out of style for a woman of God. (Prov. 19:22)
Express gratitude for what you already have.
God has some pretty strong words about longing for something that isn’t ours. Hebrews 13:5 says, “Let your conduct be without covetousness; be content with such things as you have. For He Himself has said, ‘”I will never leave you nor forsake you.’” Funny how God connects our tendency toward covetousness with the reality of His presence isn’t it? I think He wants us to be so rock-solid confident in the truth that, if he’s with us, we have and will have everything we truly need. Jesus warned us against being preoccupied with acquiring more and more things: “Take heed and beware of covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of the things he possesses.” (Lk 12:15) When we quit spinning our wheels in pursuit of the next big thing, we’ll find a big puzzle piece of personal happiness fall into place.
Speak well of others.
Not only do our words have the power of life and death (Prov. 18:21), but also they often have a way of coming back to us! God makes a connection between what we speak and the state of our hearts. Ephesians 4:29 says, “Let no corrupt word proceed out of your mouth, but what is good for necessary edification, that it may impart grace to the hearers.” Our words impart, or give, grace when they come from hearts that overflow with grace.
Get absorbed into the present.
It’s hard to live in the present when we focus on the past. We’ve all got a rear-view mirror that can keep us from moving forward when we’re stuck looking through it. Living in the past robs us of the present. He wants us to live in the certainty of God’s forgiveness for the past, not live life looking though the rear-view mirror. 1 John 1:9 assures us that “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” A.W. Tozer once said, “God fully expects us not only to confess our sins but also to walk in the glow of God’s forgiveness.” With our past covered, and our present empowered, we can rest in the promise a secured future. Living in the present also means not being absorbed with the worries of tomorrow: “And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life?” (Lk 12:25). Living in the present, with a forgiven past, and secured future, will definitely lead to a happier life.
Choose friends wisely.
“Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another.” (Prov 27:17) It matters who our friends are. While we should always be cultivating relationships with people who need to know Jesus, your true friends are the people you identify with. First Corinthians 15:33 warns, “Do not be deceived: ‘Bad company ruins good morals.’” Our friends inevitably affect our life’s direction. “Whoever walks with the wise becomes wise, but the companion of fools will suffer harm.” (Prov. 13:20)
Scripture tells us to meditate upon the Word of God (Ps.119:15). Now I definitely don’t mean the kind of mediation that involves emptying your mind. Instead, we are to direct our thoughts to meditate on whatever is true, honorable, just, pure, lovely, commendable, excellent and praiseworthy. (Phil 4:8) Whatever we dwell on transforms us (2 Cor. 3:18). We are changed by what we focus on.
Tell the truth.
What a weight is lifted off of us when we simply tell the truth! Ephesians 4:25 says, “Therefore, having put away falsehood, let each one of you speak the truth with his neighbor, for we are members one of another.” Telling the truth means choosing to live as the new creations are we in Christ. “Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have put off the old self with its practices.” (Col. 3:9)
Whether it’s the newest iPhone or yet another black dress, we probably all have items or spending habits that could be cut. 1 Timothy 6:6 tells us that godliness with contentment is great gain. Is there an area of life where the amount of time and money you have to invest in it is more draining than it’s worth? Living with greater simplicity keeps us detached from the fleeting stuff of the everyday world and attached to what will endure long after our own lives. It’s easier said than done – and very hard to remember when you walk by a good shoe sale, I know! But chances are, living minimally would help us zero in on the Lord, His Word, and other people. And that is definitely a great secret to a happy life!
Accept what cannot be changed.
There are some circumstances and people we’ll just never be able to change…a demanding boss, the consequences of a bad financial move, an uneasily pleased mother-in-law. But we have a promise that, if we really believe it for what it says, will change our focus on all of those frustrations. And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose” (Rom. 8:28) Do you realize that when God said that, He knew every situation that you’d be needing that promise for? It may not be that He works all things together quickly or easily, and in His mercy, He may allow us endure the effects of negative things that have happened. But thing is absolutely for sure: He will work it out for good –for your good!
Of course, none of these things can be lived out apart from being reconciled to God through faith in Jesus Christ (Rom. 5:1, 8:13). The truly happy life is the life full of His unshakable joy, a joy that comes from knowing we have peace with God through Jesus’ substituted life, death, and resurrection on our behalf. He wants you to live in the freedom of truth and integrity. Knowing and following Jesus is the secret to a truly happy life.
Katie McCoy is the editor of BiblicalWoman.com and is pursuing a PhD in Systematic Theology at Southwestern Seminary. When she’s not reading for her classes (a rare occasion!), she loves hanging out with friends, eating sushi, learning new words and shopping with her mom. Connect with Katie on Facebook or Follow her Twitter!