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The Cycle to Happiness

Happiness is the result of an intentional cycle of delight and meditation in the law of God.

Life is cyclical. We wake up, go to work, come home, and go to sleep. Time runs in cycles of 60 seconds, 60 minutes, 24 hours, 7 days, 12 months, and 10, 100, and 1,000 years.

In the television series Severance, people volunteer to have a medical procedure to separate their personal lives from their work lives. Thus, in their work-life consciousness, when they leave work, they are immediately arriving to work because they have separated their personal and work perceptions. On the flipside, in their personal-life consciousness, they have no recollection of the time they spend at work.

If this sounds confusing, it’s because it is. But the essence of Severance is that to break one cycle—work and leisure—people naively choose a new cycle of consciousness—work and work or leisure and leisure. So, you could stay up all night in your personal life and not know why you are extremely tired the next morning at work because your experiences have been disconnected.

People Are Unhappy

What would drive people to want to have no recollection of their personal or professional lives? Unhappiness. People are not happy, and it’s not all COVID’s fault. The 2019 “World Happiness Report” revealed that people were the unhappiest since the early 1990s.[1] This unhappiness is driven by several factors, including poverty, social media, drug addiction, and poor health.[2]

Severing our lives, then, is not the answer to our unhappiness, because one-half of our lives will be in a perpetual cycle of despair. And, more than likely, the other half is not that exhilarating either.

What is the answer?

Experiencing True Happiness

For the answer we turn to the philosophical theology of the Psalms. They are a collection of 150 personal journals of people who were attempting to live out their faith in the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Their journals reveal to us the spiritual, physical, mental, and emotional struggles that come with being human. Quite fittingly, our introduction to the anthology of their diaries begins with the word “Blessed” (Psalm 1:1). It means “how happy” or “truly happy” is the person that has a right relationship with God.[3] Thus, abundant or absolute happiness is not found in anyone or anything other than God.

How do we experience this abundant and absolute happiness? David informs us that life’s bliss is realized when we avoid some people and embrace Someone.

1 Blessed is the man who does not walk in the advice of the wicked;

nor does he stand in the way of sinners;

nor does he sit in the assembly of mockers.

2 Instead, in the law of Yahweh is his delight,

and on his law he meditates day and night. (Psalm 1:1-2, LEB)

In these two verses, David teaches us everything we need to know about experiencing the happiness we so earnestly desire.

Evade Happiness Stealers

When we recognize that life is a journey and our path is to be continuously traveled until we reach the predetermined destination that God has for us, the happiness stealers below won’t seduce us into becoming stagnant in despair.

There are three places in life that can rob us of the joy God desires us to have.

The first stealer is the wicked’s wisdom. The worst people to get advice about happiness are those who are wicked. They are wicked because their lifestyles are the exact opposite of what God has prescribed for humanity. They encourage us to lie, cheat, and steal. They live with a moral compass that is flawed at best and broken at worst. Listening to what they advise will rob us of the joy of living because God is opposed to the wicked (Psalm 11:5).

The second stealer is the sinners’ sidewalk. As we find ourselves walking in the advice of the wicked, we begin to huddle with them on the road they are traveling. There’s only one problem: everybody’s standing. Because we followed their advice and found ourselves on their road, we are not only moving in the opposite direction of happiness, but we eventually discover that we have slowed from walking to standing. Since their sidewalk is outside the gathering place of the righteous (Psalm 1:5), we become stuck in their misery because misery loves company.

The third stealer is the mockers’ meeting. Having huddled with sinners, the final descent is into the chair of those who have contempt for and ridicule the ways of the Lord. Meetings can be long, and a lot of planning and discussion take place. At this particular meeting, they are discussing why it is foolish to believe in God and to follow His guidelines for living. But the ultimate joke is on them because they will suffer God’s judgment (Prov. 19:29). What grief a child of God must feel being in such an environment.

Notice how each stealer regresses our life until we become stagnant and unhappy—walk, stand, sit. Somehow walking in the advice of the wicked and standing at the sinners’ sidewalk has devolved into a full-scale meeting where we are gathered with those who despise God. If this isn’t the cycle of unhappiness, then what is?

But David doesn’t leave us in despair; he offers a different approach to journeying through life.

Embrace Happiness Healers

We have discovered that they way of the wicked will not bring us the happiness we desire; it will only imprison us with radical extremists who oppose God. But there are two happiness healers that can facilitate the joy of the Lord in our lives.

The first happiness healer is delighting in the law of the Lord. The law of the Lord is the Bible. It is His instruction manual to us that teaches us how to have a loving relationship with Him by living the way He intends for us to live. If we want to be happy, God has given us the information we need to experience it. What is necessary is delighting in what He has given to us. The mockers despise God’s law, so they live in misery. The delighters feel exhilaration for God’s law because they recognize He has given it to us out of His love for us. He wants us to be happy and has shared with us how it can be a reality in our lives, but we must love His law if we are going to live in His eternal bliss.

The second happiness healer is meditating in the law of the Lord. When we have an emotional affection for and connection with the Scriptures, we must complement that with a mental introspection of how to live out God’s instructions. Meditation helps instill into our memories the principles for living human God’s way which become conscious actions and choices that keep us away from the wicked’s wisdom, sinners’ sidewalk, and mockers’ meeting. It becomes a cycle of exhilaration and meditation as our delight in God’s Word motivates us to delve deeper into it; and the more we explore God’s Word, the more we experience God’s joy in our hearts.

Happiness Is Intentional

Misery is contagious; happiness is intentional. The world already lives in the unhappiness of the lust of the eyes, the lust of the flesh, and the pride of life (1 John 2:16), but the righteous live in the happiness of God’s law. Life has its own cycle and rhythm, but we get to determine our own. Unlike the television show Severance, we can’t disconnect our lives. It’s quite simple: We will either follow the cycle of happiness stealers or happiness healers. The choice is up to us.

Rev. Isaac Hayes is the founder of Healing of the Soul Ministries and author of Men After God’s Heart: 10 Principles of Brotherly Love. He is also an Assistant Pastor at the Apostolic Church of God in Chicago, Illinois, and a doctoral student at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School. Follow Rev. Hayes on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram at @RevIsaacHayes.

[1] [2] [3] Willem VanGemeren, ed., New International Dictionary of Old Testament Theology & Exegesis (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1997), 570.

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