There’s a line of logic today that is outside the norm. It says basically that being “bad tempered and pessimistic” helps you earn more, live longer, and enjoy a healthier life. The article comments: “It’s almost enough to put a smile on the sourest faces.”
The question: Is it true? Does it work? The answer from Scripture is an absolute NO. What says the Word?
Proverbs 15:13 13A merry heart makes a cheerful countenance, But by sorrow of the heart the spirit is broken.
Proverbs 15:15 15All the days of the afflicted are evil, But he who is of a merry heart has a continual feast.
“Merry” may refer to lightheartedness as Solomon looked for it. But “happy” in the context of Scripture is, in the deeper sense, to be “blessed,” i.e., to have the blessing of God, the eternal blessing. This blessing is the result of meeting many conditions—which shows us it is God’s reward for developing virtue in our lives. Think about the beatitudes:
Matthew 5:4–8 4Blessed are those who mourn, For they shall be comforted. 5Blessed are the meek, For they shall inherit the earth. 6Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, For they shall be filled. 7Blessed are the merciful, For they shall obtain mercy. 8Blessed are the pure in heart, For they shall see God.
Here are definite conditions to be met, a standard of virtue to be practiced and achieved. This happiness is not the result of happenstance, or good fortune, or any windfall in this world, but from serious, spiritual diligent effort.
How might we define it? What does it come down to? In condensed form, as has been said,
Happiness is the result of thinking right and thanking God.
Now the question: Can happiness ever be negative?
In a different sense, the answer is Yes. But negative happiness is not the same as results from God’s blessing. I observed this at close range when I was in high school. The senior prom was the high moment of the year, they spent weeks and weeks preparing for it.
One night, and it was all over. And the next day, there were tears and distress and people telling each other off—even among those who had contributed the most, because it didn’t come out to anticipation. I was at close range in classes with a number of them, and it clearly was not a “happy” time.
A juvenile example of a life lesson.
Contrast it with the happiness we get in serving God, the genuine joy and satisfaction in competing against ourselves, outreaching ourselves in character, outdoing ourselves, surpassing ourselves.
In the world outside, there is a light form of happiness that is more like empty laughter, momentary froth, a bubble of “fun” soon to burst. Ecclesiastes has a special description for it.
Ecclesiastes 7:6 6For like the crackling of thorns under a pot, So is the laughter of the fool. This also is vanity.
We understand that this expression came from a type of crackling thorns that were burned to heat a pot quickly. The thorns would spark quickly and quickly die out. It described a momentary joy, soon gone, the “laughter of a fool.”
Ecclesiastes even says that rebuke and correcton are better than the happiness of a fool—because
Proverbs 6:23 23For the commandment is a lamp, And the law a light; Reproofs of instruction are the way of life,
Light hearted laughter is what Solomon classified the happiness of a fool. All vanity. Worthless. Nothing.
Isn’t that the value of most of the laughter in the world around us—self-induced, frivolous, frothy, nothing substantial. Good, hearty, clean, spontaneous laughter may be innocent and refreshing. But silly, nonsensical lightness, often called “being positive,” is foolishness. And Proverbs says of this foolishness,
Proverbs 24:9 9The thought of foolishness is sin: And the scorner is an abomination to men.
The pressure to be positive has never been greater, especially when many people are suffering with depression from the long lockdown. Lacking their pleasures, their employment and their freedom to come and go, they see life without purpose.
To confront the negative, cultural forces have whipped up a frenzied pursuit of so-called “happiness.” You can hire a happiness expert, or seek inner satisfaction by an app. The US army currently trains its soldiers in positive psychology, and optimism is being taught in the UK schools. The benefit?
While people grapple with moods and depression, let us thank God for genuine happiness and joy which can only come from knowing and serving Him.
With the prospect of eternal life in view—not a dream but a reality that will be soon visible with the arrival of our King—we have NO reason to be bad-tempered or pessimistic. God has nothing eternal for the one who is dour and sour, nor will one who is serving God BE dour and sour. Bad-tempered is the expression of being OUTSIDE the will of God, on our own in a world of corruption. No happiness there.
But with an ETERNAL future ahead, with the surety that God IS working out His purpose and the earth is soon to begin a program of worldwide CHANGE destined testined to end in real GLORY, there is more ahead than we can begin to imagine!
Can we picture even faintly the delight of the angels as they come to help set up the new state of affairs on earth?
Can we “hear” as they tell about how the new “world” came into being where they live?
With the vision of future glory and honor and happiness that God has promised OUR world that is now almost in view, let us feel its exhilaration.
As Brother Nichols said, and I quote,
To know by actual experience that it makes us more joyous even now is quite enough to cause us to work with a lighter step and happier heart than ever before. As we progress with this work, the yoke will grow easier and the burden lighter, until it will be one continuous sunshine in the soul, and we can exclaim, “I delight to do thy will, O my God.”
Again he says,
John the apostle was out preaching the doctrine of Jesus, that we must become pure of heart, and he came to the conclusion that the things of the world only have a tendency to pull us down, so he commanded us to love them not. Not that the Lord wants to deprive us of any pleasure we might get in this life, but what He gives us is so much better. If we will do as He tells us we can be much happier. You remember Jesus said (Mark 10:30), “But he shall receive an hundredfold now in this time, houses, and brethren, and sisters, and mothers, and children, and lands with persecution; and in the world to come eternal life.” If we are looking every day into the Book and keeping these commandments, we can know the home of wealth, the home of glory that will never end, will be ours.
Knowing that our daily work is winning for us EONS of ages in ETERNITY! our happiness will grow in proportion to our faith.
No wonder Proverbs says,
Proverbs 15:15 15… he who is of a merry heart [a heart of true happiness] has a continual feast.