By Jesse Jost
If God stepped into your room and offered you a pill that was guaranteed to boost your happiness level, would you take it?
God made our brains for joy and peace and pleasure. In His presence there is fullness of joy. (Psalm 16:11)
Jesus said that He came that we might have life more abundantly. (John 10:10) “That your joy may be full,” were some of His final words to his disciples (John 15:11). Paul urges us to “rejoice in the Lord always.” (Phil 4:4)
But on this broken planet, we rarely enjoy God’s presence. Our minds are weighted with anxiety, resentment, discontentment, and guilt.
How did we get stuck in misery and how do we get unstuck?
Happiness Booster #1: Replace Regrets of the Past with Gratitude
The past can be tormenting… mistakes, missed opportunities, and the criticisms and abuse heaped on us. Toxic reflections like these create a yearning to rewrite events gone by.
But the past can’t be changed. It can, however, be reframed or reinterpreted.
God commands us to give thanks for all things (Eph 5:20). Rather than brooding over our past failures and hurts, we need to revisit God’s past faithfulness: His provision for our needs, His comfort in our distress, His words of encouragement.
As painful as our past may be, we need to focus on the undeserved gifts of the past. It’s easy to be envious of others’ pasts. We rarely compare our past with those who have had it worse.
All of our lives are filled with abundant gifts from our Heavenly Father, and marks of His grace and generosity.
Even before our births, God’s actions in the past of defeating sin and death on the cross and turning the course of history by rising from the grave enable all of our hurts and regrets to be redeemed and healed.
Happiness Booster # 2: Replace Resentment and Discontentment with Praise of God
There are two ways to look at your present circumstance:
1. Notice how life and other people have failed your expectations – things could be better!
2. Notice how you do have it better than others, and how people have shown you kindness and generosity.
In either perspective, you aren’t making up a fantasy to be happy. You are just choosing how to interpret and frame the facts. How you choose to look makes all the difference in your emotional state and can either fill you with resentment and discontent, or wonder and joy.
But what our soul needs more than anything is to reframe our present circumstances in light of God’s character and attributes.
We need to recognize that He is a kind and passionately loving Father.
We need to ponder His infinite wisdom and knowledge of all life’s possibilities and unintended consequences.
We need to remember His sovereign power over nature and rulers and events.
The more we choose to be aware of, and praise, His goodness, the more we will be filled with joy regardless of our circumstances.
Happiness Booster #3: Replace Fear and Anxiety with Anticipation of God’s Promised Restoration.
In Hebrews 11, the author notes how faith looks at the promises of God and His future healing as a truer reality than the one we are currently experiencing with our own senses.
While our senses can deceive us, God cannot lie. He is completely sovereign, and His purposes cannot be thwarted. So walking by faith is wiser than walking by sight.
The idea of trusting a future vision as more real than what we are currently experiencing also happens when fear and anxiety take over.
We become tormented by the threat of possible tragedy and catastrophe. These things are not real and haven’t yet happened, but our emotional state is affected by these thoughts as though they were real.
This is the contrast between fear and faith. Both look at scenarios not yet realized.
But fear pays attention to images from an enemy known as the father of lies, while faith choose to believe the Word of One who cannot lie.
God has promised us believers a future state so beautiful and wonderful that it strains our ability to imagine it.
We will one day forever be with the Lord worshipping His beauty with holy eyes that are no longer distorted by sin and self-interest.
We will live forever with no more genocide, terrorism, cancer, chronic pain, or diabetes.
We will have rich fellowship with other believers as we work and play – no more jealousy, misunderstanding, gossip, or betrayal.
We will enjoy scenic vistas of nature and space without the hardships of insect bites, animal attacks, or frozen limbs.
We will learn and explore science, history, and nature without distortion.
We will reflect on our time on earth with wonder and gratitude as we see all the ways that God intervened, provided, and worked all things for our good.
We will be able to experience the soul thrilling beauty of God’s presence in ways only hinted at now.
This is the state promised to those who surrender to Christ down here, who accept His free gift of salvation.
The future will be filled with death and pain; many of the things we fear will become temporal realities. But the state described above in God’s Word is the final reality. It is one we can anticipate with firm hope and rejoicing.
Mental health is affected by many physical factors. Physical illness and hormonal imbalance or mental illness can prevent the experience of full biological happiness in the moment.
Toxic thoughts become habit ruts in the brain. Focusing on the positive reality of God’s truth should not be a one time event, but a recurring habit for the soul to lift out of darkness.
You will struggle to change your mental focus if you are spending too much time alone. We need the strength and perspective of other people.
Find someone that you can encourage with these truths, and surround yourself with those who dwell on His faithfulness.
No matter what your physical state, your soul can benefit greatly by a renewed focus on what God has done, Who He is, and What He has promised to do.
I really believe that could we fully grasp all three truths, our souls would be filled with an overflowing joy that no power of hell could even begin to tamp down.