Photo by Denise Jones on Unsplash
Testifying to the Truth of Christian Happiness
Written by Celine Alava
May 9, 2022
What makes me happy?
What gives me glee?
It’s not the things I do
But what You do for me
You give me poems to sing
Glory to You they bring
That’s what my life is for
My Lord I will forever adore
This is the beginning part of a poem-turned-song that I wrote out of my heart. I’m expressing here how I find happiness as something coming from God. I write poems as a hobby, but I give God the credit because I don’t see my abilities as something I can do on my own. You can also see here that I perceive my life as something that must bring Him glory. A lot of things can be seen here actually as I reflect on these two stanzas in connection to the important topic I want to discuss. It’s found in the very first line: “What makes me happy?”
I was asking this in my mind in the year 2016. It was a time I was trying to find myself–in the context of figuring out what college major I should take–while recovering from severe depression. I wrote a song the same day I wrote this poem; that’s why I penned that writing inspired by God is one thing that brings me joy. I didn’t even know I would turn this poem into a whole song five years later. God really did give me poems to sing. I don’t have a decent recording of this song yet, but the goal of this blog entry is not to promote my poetry or song writing but to show my Christian perspective of happiness. For me, being able to sing or praise God from the heart is an evidence of having joy.
For me, being able to sing or praise God from the heart is an evidence of having joy.
What is joy or happiness?
We all know the words joy and happiness. It’s when we have a smile on our face. It’s when we clap when someone sings “If You’re Happy and You Know It.” It’s even when our eyes are tearing up what we call “tears of joy.”
I’ve searched dictionaries on what does the word happy mean, and found the common meaning of “having pleasure or contentment.” This is like looking at synonyms only. As an English tutor, I wouldn’t tell a student who doesn’t know what happy means by giving dictionary definitions. I haven’t experienced being asked about this as I’m still new to the job, but if I were asked, I would put on a big smile and enthusiastically say, “I’m happy!” Then I would frown and gloomily say, “I’m sad” to give a better idea of what happiness isn’t.
God gave us this life, and so it is only His Word that should direct how to live it.
The reason why I’m defining joy is to show that language-wise, including body language, its concept is incomplete. It’s beyond the outward appearance. It doesn’t mean that when I don’t smile, I’m not happy. People might ask “What is joy, really?” because their situation doesn’t seem to tell them what it truly is.
Thank God for the Bible! It’s life’s manual. Without it, how will we know about God? God gave us this life, and so it is only His Word that should direct how to live it. Thank God even more that He sent His Son! Jesus Christ walked this earth to testify to God’s truth and to bring us to Him. Who better to teach on happiness than the source of it all?
Jesus opened His Sermon on the Mount with the beatitudes. From a writer’s viewpoint, He constructed the perfect introduction. The first statement of any piece of writing must grab attention. He started with what people wanted: He showed how to be happy.
How to Be Happy
Pastor Marty Ocaya’s 2019 message titled “How to Be Happy” gives 5 ways we can experience happiness regardless of our situation. They’re based on the beatitudes. He used the acronym CHECK: C for Content, H for Humble, E for Entrust, C for Christ-focused, and K for Kind.
1. Be Content
The message defines contentment as “being grateful and joyful with what you have now and holding loosely all your desires and wants.” Basically, what we have is life. Isn’t it a wonder how we’re alive? Yes, it is, but the human heart wants more. Even the wisest person, King Solomon, tried it all in the Book of Ecclesiastes, and found that everything under the sun is meaningless. What is it to be content about? It’s God. We Christians have Him forever.
Seeing that everything is from Him makes us grateful.
I’d like us to look at the part of the poem I shared because all these five things are there. I attest to the truth of this sermon because three years even before it was preached, I already saw it in my life. When I asked for what makes me happy, I answered that it’s what God does for me. At that time and until now, I consider it joy when God puts rhyming poems in my heart. What God does is more than that. He blesses us with provisions and protection every day. Seeing that everything is from Him makes us grateful. The fact that we’re breathing would make us content, but as we walk with God, we will certainly feel how well taken care of we are.
Saying we can’t do it on our own shows we don’t think of ourselves highly. That’s humility.
2. Be Humble
The first three beatitudes show humility.
“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
“Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.
“Blessed are the gentle, for they will inherit the earth.
The word blessed in Greek is makarios, which literally means “happy.” Being poor in spirit is seeing you are nothing without God, so you depend on Him for your spiritual growth. How can you be happy when you count yourself as nothing, or when you mourn? They’ll be happy because their needs will be met.
Back to my poem, I expressed that it’s not me who makes me happy, but it’s God. I claimed that I didn’t make my poems on my own. Yes, it was me, physically alone writing them, but He’s my inspiration and the One who guides my thinking. Saying we can’t do it on our own shows we don’t think of ourselves highly. That’s humility.
3. Entrust to God
We entrust when we surrender to the Lord’s control. When we let go and let God handle our life with all its problems, we won’t worry. Before we do this, we need to be humble. We need to see we’re not in control but God is.
I commit my joy in the hands of God; that’s why I wrote in my poem it’s not what I do but what God does that makes me happy. Being humble and entrusting go hand in hand as we have to be humble enough to not make ourselves the god of our lives. Then we can make Jesus the Lord of our lives.
4. Be Christ-focused
This is what Jesus says at the end of the beatitudes: “Blessed are you when people insult you and persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of Me” (Matthew 5:11). Happy are those who suffer because of Christ. When we live for Him, we’re sure to find meaning and fulfillment. We won’t feel burdened no matter what challenges we face. If people are against us because of our faith in Jesus, we have a reason to rejoice because, like the apostles, we’ve been “considered worthy to suffer shame for His name (Acts 5:41).”
I addressed my poem to God in Jesus’ name. Majority of the poems I write are either prayers to God or organized thoughts that involve Him. As my faith has grown, I always consider God when I think because in my heart, my life is for Him. Because He is my Lord, He is my greatest joy.
I agree with John Piper’s altered version of the doctrinal statement “The chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever.” He changed the phrase “and enjoy” to “by enjoying” and based his book Desiring God on the new statement. Living to enjoy God is the happiest life. I couldn’t think of any better way of life.
When we live for Him, we’re sure to find meaning and fulfillment.
5. Be Kind
Most of the beatitudes are on being kind.
“Blessed are the gentle, for they will inherit the earth.
“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be satisfied.
“Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy.
“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.
“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God.
“Blessed are those who have been persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Without Jesus Christ, my life might have been too miserable to bear. I might not have a reason to love and care.
Pastor Marty said, “Kind people usually have a lesser chance of experiencing unnecessary conflict.” When you’re kind, you wouldn’t dare cause a fight. You wouldn’t consider stepping on anyone’s toes, both literally and figuratively. If someone slaps you on one cheek, you would turn the other cheek (Matthew 5:39). People may think fighting back would make them feel better, but having an enemy won’t give you peace; you wouldn’t be happy in the long run.
In my poem, I wrote, “My Lord I will forever adore.” Part of loving God is keeping His commandments (John 14:15). We are to love our neighbor as ourselves (Leviticus 19:18). Being kind is part of loving (1 Corinthians 13:4). You can’t love God whom you don’t see if you can’t love the people that you do see (1 John 4:20). Once you know that God’s law is love, you’ll make that your life motto. With His help, you’ll be loving, kind, gentle, righteous, merciful, pure, and peace-loving.
In all these five ways, I can testify that Pastor Marty really puts the “check” in “reality check” because it’s in my reality that I find inner joy in being content, humble, trusting of God, Christ-focused, and kind. I may not be a cheerful person, but I’ve learned to see I have pleasure and contentment in my heart. Without Jesus Christ, my life might have been too miserable to bear. I might not have a reason to love and care. That’s why I praise Him with prayers, poems, and songs. It’s my heart’s pleasure to worship Him all my life long. It’s my prayer that people find their joy in Christ, too. May rejoicing in Him be what they’ll always do.