This article tugs at the knotted question: do believers have access to more happiness than non-believers do? The following trail of if-then statements led me toward a deeper understanding.
If there is no law, there is no sin. If there is no sin, there is no righteousness. And if there [is] no righteousness there [is] no happiness.1
Each link in this deductive daisy chain struck me as reasonable… except the conclusion. All have happy moments – even the wicked. I picture a crime kingpin getting a massage on a yacht somewhere in the Caribbean and imagine a smile on his face. So how can it be true that there is no happiness without righteousness?
Happiness, as I understood it, is a state of well-being and contentment. It is pleasant, pleasurable or satisfying. It is found in the moments of such immersion in an activity that the world melts away. To me, happiness was a string of pearls. Every flash of happiness adds a pearl to the string. The unhappy flashes each add a lump of coal. The manner in which I live can increase the number and size of those pearls, and if the pearls outweigh the coal then I consider my life happy.
I opened up the Bible to understand what Jesus Christ had to say on the topic:
- Happy are the poor…
- Happy are those who mourn…
- Happy are those who hunger and thirst…
- Happy are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you…2
Those learning at Christ’s feet must have found these pronouncements jarring. Happy and blessed are the sufferers!? He seems to be describing the opposite of happiness and conveying the message: my happiness is not what you think it is.
Jesus tells us something of his happiness in the complete phrases:
- Happy are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
- Happy are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.
- Happy are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.
- Happy are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven.
Each of these sayings point toward happiness through a growing relationship with God. The language implies that we can humbly approach God and reside in his kingdom during this life. We can be comforted and receive lasting peace through repentance. We can be filled with righteousness and the Holy Ghost as our relationship with God expands. We can find an eternal happiness – one that persists through the inevitable sufferings and ecstasies of life.3
The ancient prophet Alma knew something of happiness and misery.4 He was converted to Christianity in dramatic fashion after leading many away from the faith as a youth. He wrote:
I say unto you, wickedness never was happiness… All men that are in a state of nature, or… in a carnal state… [are] in the bonds of iniquity; they are without God in the world, and they have gone contrary to the nature of God; therefore, they are in a state contrary to the nature of happiness.5
For the believer, happiness is a state in relation to the Almighty. In this state, the believer:
- Is in alignment with instead of contrary to God’s will and law
- Is incrementally freed from destructive behavior and guilt
- Feels the presence, comfort and approval of God
This type of happiness is a blessing that God bestows on his humble followers. It is not as pleasurable or as fleeting as the world’s happiness. It is a stickier kind – one that adheres to believers through the dark times and the bright. This alignment with God is not an extreme amount of what the world would consider happy. It is of a different make. To stress the distinction, some call it “joy,” “blessedness,” “peace,” or the “rest of the Lord.” And there is nothing more desirable or fulfilling.6
We do not receive Christ’s happiness instead of the world’s happiness. It comes in addition to it. We can still enjoy a sunset, an accomplishment, the companionship of a puppy or whatever else makes us happy… and we can have a relationship with God.
How can we find this joy? One way to start would be to seek out his word. Begin reading the New Testament. Kneel down in prayer asking God for direction. Consult with someone who is carrying his message. What better way to align with him than to seek out his guidance in scripture, in prayer and in his representatives.