For multiple years in a row, Finland has won the title “World’s Happiest Country.” Journalists across the globe flock to this California-sized country and ask the one-million-dollar question: What makes Finland so happy? The answers given throughout the years are often boiled down to three major points: economic stability, an excellent work-life balance, and personal freedom. Are these factors the keys to having a happy life? Or are there other factors that are missing, such as the role of faith, in providing lasting happiness?
The Search for Happiness
Many people spend their lives in search of true happiness but never stop to think about what the Bible has to say on the matter. In fact, the Bible has a lot to say about happiness. Scripture uses the terms joy, delight, gladness, and happiness interchangeably to describe the qualities God’s people ought to have.1
Psalm 21:1 states, “O Lord, in your strength the king rejoices, and in your salvation how greatly he exults!” Despite the many hardships King David faced throughout his lifetime and reign as king, he found the strength to rejoice and exult in God’s salvation. David continued to bless the Lord throughout this psalm. So, what is this joy the Bible talks about, and how does it differ from the world’s definition of happiness?
The world often defines happiness as a life that is full of good things—an excellent job, a loving family, a sense of confidence, and all the rest. We want these things to fill our lives. To a large extent, having these in our lives will make us happy. But what happens when we cannot have these things? Are we destined to live a life without happiness?
Having good things in our lives can be likened to filling up a basin with rocks. When we get a good job, we place a rock in the basin. When we feel good about ourselves, another rock goes in. With enough good things in our lives, the basin fills up, and we feel fulfilled and happy in life. Unfortunately, however, as quickly as the basin can be filled, it can be emptied. As the situations in our lives deteriorate, we may find our basin being emptied, rock by rock, as our happiness dwindles.
Instead, we should fill up the basin with water. Then, when a blessing (rock) gets thrown into our basin, it will overflow! Moreover, if we lose financial stability or our family situation deteriorates, our basin will not empty, though the rocks are removed. The water will remain, despite our circumstances.
Happiness that Lasts
So, what is this “water” with which we should fill our basin? How can our lives remain full no matter what circumstances we face? Jesus provided the answer for us in his encounter with the Samaritan woman as recorded in the New Testament book of John.
The Samaritan woman’s life was full of pain, suffering, and loss. But one day, when she went to the well to draw water, she met Jesus. He told her, “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life” (John 4:13–14). Jesus acknowledged the fact that the water from the well would satisfy the woman’s thirst for a moment, but eventually, she would be thirsty again. Jesus offered the woman the ability to obtain living water, or eternal life, if she put her trust in Him. And through that living water, she could experience joy even amid her circumstances.
How do we find this living water? In John 7:38, Jesus said, “Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.’” This means that believing Jesus is the Messiah and accepting His free gift of eternal life results in a life full of living water, or joy. Despite’s life’s circumstances, we can remain happy in Jesus, knowing He will walk us through life’s difficult times and that He is preparing a place for us to live with Him forever (John 14:1–4).
So, does God want us to be happy? Yes. But he does not want our happiness to be dependent on material or temporary things of this life that can vanish in an instant. He wants us to experience permanent happiness through Him, so that the basins of our lives remain full and never run dry.
- David Murray, “Happiness,” The Gospel Coalition, September 29, 2015, https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/reviews/happiness-randy-alcorn/