Both modern research and Scripture put the ball in our court. Happy people give generously, serve others, and seek to make others happy. Happiness doesn’t precede giving and serving; it accompanies and follows it. Those who sit around waiting to be happy shouldn’t hold their breath —it will likely be a long wait!
A 2010 survey revealed that of 4,500 Americans who volunteered an average of one hundred hours a year, 68 percent reported feeling physically healthier, 73 percent said volunteering “lowered my stress levels,” and 89 percent reported that it “has improved my sense of well-being.” This idea that happiness requires action isn’t controversial. Research corresponds perfectly with Scripture. Speaking of our spiritual gifts, Paul said, “Let us use them. . . . The one who does acts of mercy, with cheerfulness” (Romans 12:6, 8). We’re not just told to be cheerful but to use our gifts cheerfully, which spreads joy to others.
As a young pastor, I led our church’s counseling ministry. I said to various married couples, “You meet with me and then have the illusion that you did something to help your marriage —but coming here means nothing unless you actually make the changes we talk about.” When it comes to happiness, the same principle applies: speaking or reading about it doesn’t necessarily make it happen.
I’ve heard people talk about their hopes or plans to one day read the Bible regularly, give generously, volunteer for children’s ministry, or go on a mission trip. God’s gift of happiness isn’t based on what we’d like to do or hope to do or even plan to do —only on what we actually do.
Simply recognizing that happiness comes from knowing, loving, and serving God is a good beginning, but it isn’t enough. We need to open God’s Word, go to the Bible study, join a church, volunteer at a homeless shelter, write a check to support Bible translation for unreached people groups, or go on a summer mission trip. If we want new and better results when it comes to our happiness, we must act!
Randy Alcorn, 60 Days of Happiness: Discover God’s Promise of Relentless Joy (Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., 2017).