Here are some practical tips I found on the net on how to be happy:
- Get regular exercise, be healthy. Go for a brisk walk, get health issues you are in control of sorted out and stay hydrated by drinking copious amounts of filtered water.
- Socialize with happy people. Studies have shown that spending time with good friends who have a positive outlook on life dramatically increases subjective reports of wellbeing and happiness.
- Learn a new skill. When people focus on learning a new language, craft, or sport they exhibit higher levels of happiness.
- Engage frequently in simple activities that bring you pleasure. The concept of “flow” is that sense of satisfaction and fulfillment and happiness one experiences when doing something enjoyable and doing it well. One simple example is eating a favorite food as a treat— in moderation of course.
And here are some tips I found for caring for my dog’s wellbeing:
- Regularly take your dog for a brisk walk for exercise, give him lots of fresh water, and get health issues sorted out quickly.
- Socialize your dog by making an effort to get him out to parks where there are other dogs.
- Train your dog and teach him skills.
- Let your dog engage in activities that bring him pleasure like hanging his head out the window, and give your dog an enjoyable treat to eat—in moderation.
Of mutts and men
I’m not sure what insight is to be found in how similar and environmentally sensitive canine and human happiness is. But there is another aspect in which dogs and humans correlate. One site on K-9 police dogs said that the animal’s wellbeing is inextricable from his relationship with his handler.
If he has a kind master who provides for physical needs, expresses love and affection through touch and tone of voice, and spends time with the dog, he will be almost oblivious to any other circumstance besides what the master requires of the dog. And this total obedience is born out of the canine’s trust in his handler.
I wish the psychology websites included this in their advice on how humans can be happy.
Thankfully, Christians already know that joy stems from being in a right relationship with a loving, generous, and trustworthy Master through obedience.
One compact and clear verse that teaches this is Philippians 4:4 Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice.
The Command of Joy
Paul is saying, “I command you to be now and continually rejoicing in the Lord and at all times.” It is important to notice that rejoicing is a matter of obedience.
Some people don’t realize that a Christian who is not rejoicing, as a pattern of his or her life, is in sin. How can that be?! Surely there are circumstances in which joy is unnatural and even inappropriate. No one celebrates with an enthusiastic fist-pump when they get news of a tragic accident. What is Paul saying?
A key to understanding this is the distinction between joy and happiness. Happiness is a sense of well-being based on circumstances while joy is related to your perspective of your circumstances.
You are happy if you get a raise at work, your cancer screen comes back clear, or your child wins a karate competition. But the problem with happiness is that it is fickle. You get a raise (yay)… then you get fired (yikes). The cancer test comes back clear, but then you wreck your car and break your back. Your child wins a karate competition, and later confesses that he uses drugs. Your happiness bobs up on the crest of good news and is plunged down by the trough of bad news. This is normal, natural, and not what Paul is talking about.
Happiness is not commanded in Scripture because it is not something you choose or can control. Joy, on the other hand, is not related to circumstances at all, but rather it comes from your perspective of your circumstances. And this is a matter of obedience.
So what about when bad things happen?
The Conditionality of Joy
I don’t want you to think that you are in sin when you are sad. Jesus was grieved by the premature death of his friend, Lazarus, he mourned over the stubbornness of Jerusalem, and in many other ways he was acquainted with grief.
We aren’t expected to rejoice in our grief; the command is to rejoice in the Lord.
This means we should find a sense of well-being in who Jesus is and what he has done for us in the midst of difficulties and trials, and even in the midst of favorable circumstances.
2 Cor 4:17 For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison.
Paul is filling his mind with the truth about God’s glory and God’s work in him that will last into eternity.
John MacArthur says it well in his sermon on this passage:
Christian joy… is not a feeling on top of a feeling. It is a feeling on top of a fact. It is an emotional response to what I know to be true about my God.”
The Continuity of Joy
Does Paul mean that in this world of pain and murder and abortion and war and corruption and disease, that Christians must always be positive, constantly idealistic, and never lose heart?
Yes that’s exactly what he means.
We need to live overcoming lives, maintaining hope, exuding contentment with what God has given to us. And yet at the same time we may grieve and mourn and be sad.
Paul described his rough life in these terms…
2 Cor 4:8 We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; 9 persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; …and 6:10 as sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; as poor, yet making many rich; as having nothing, yet possessing everything.
Suffering and fear are prime opportunities for us to give God glory. When one of us is reclining in a hot tub with Michael Phelps no observer can tell who is a better swimmer. Well, okay the muscles might give them a hint. But it takes an Olympic pool for his superiority to be put on full display and become blatantly obvious.
As we recline in times of comfort, unbelievers and believers can both look happy. But it is in times of trial and difficulty where the joy of believers becomes obvious to a spectating world.
And that is the reason you must rejoice in the Lord always, and again I say rejoice.