What is is that makes a person happy? How do we know when we are truly happy? A better question would be, should we be pursuing happiness?

When we realize we are not happy our first reaction is to try to change some external thing to try and make ourselves feel better. We dye our hair or go for a new style, redecorate the house, go shopping and buy ourselves something, have a baby, get married, get divorced, take a mental vacation or a real vacation, over eat, or over-commit to avoid thinking and feeling anything at all. Some people abuse drugs or alcohol when they are very desperate.

Sometimes the things you try to make yourself feel better actually work- for a while. Having those desires sated might make you very happy until the bill comes, or you lose your spouse. What I have seen in others and learned for myself is that even while we are busy being “happy” on the outside, we are empty and miserable on the inside.

There is no peace, no contentment in being a spoiled brat. You will notice this in small children who beg and plead, manipulate and tantrum until the parent gives in and buys them what they want. The contentment and happiness they enjoy in possessing this brand new thing lasts about one night, then there is a new desire.

Why is this? The problem is that this happiness is based on human things; it is temporary, hollow, superficial and circumstantial.

False happiness comes from buying into the worlds ideas of having more and more. This is selfish and is the result of our failure to see the difference between receiving good things from God and taking what we want on our own terms.

Our own terms usually do not include God, and this is one reason we are discontent, even when we get what we want. The Lord does not want us to be happy and content apart from Him. He is a relational God and He created us to fellowship with Him and made it possible for us to do so through Christ.

We find an excellent example of today’s lesson in the parable of the prodigal in Luke 15. This young man learned some tough lessons the hard way! After a life of luxury with his dad, he demanded his part of the inheritance (even though his father was still alive!) and went out in search of “happiness.”

You probably know the story already- the son wanted his inheritance, and used it to obtain all the things the world had to offer. He was overconfident and self-righteous and thought he knew what he needed to make him happy. By the biblical account, he lived a self-indulgent life that was full of parties and immorality. He indulged in all the sin his heart desired, spent all the money, and soon wound up homeless and penniless.

He wound up living in a pig pen.

What he learned was that sorrow, disillusionment and disappointment usually follow decisions and changes we make that are based on emotion and those changeable feelings of ours. We cannot rely on or trust our feelings to guide our lives. So, if we cannot rely on feelings, or follow our hearts, then what are we to find genuine happiness?

Our feelings, though given to us by God were never intended to be the basis of our decisions and the changes we make in our lives. Our feelings are tricky and sneaky because in case you haven’t noticed, they change by the hour or even by the minute. Our feelings (like everything else) are to be under the control of the Holy Spirit and are not to rule over us. We are to submit our powerful feelings and emotions to authority of the Word of God.

Happiness is characterized by joy, inner contentment and peace, and confidence in a loving God. This is a gift from God and cannot be conjured up through circumstances and buying power. This is something many people are discovering in our current economy. “Stuff” does not buy happiness! Being happy does not come from circumstances, you can be happy in spite of them. I find I am “happy” when I am making right, God honoring choices and decisions.

As you determine to glorify God in your life you will be supernaturally transformed. You will discover happiness in Christ and Christ alone and I promise you- you will have inner peace, and quiet contentment in spite of your circumstances.

A part of making this decision, is to grant God access to those areas of “you” that are currently off limits to God and His Word. These are the places you keep your secret sins and the untouchable ones. The greatest and strongest idols of your heart that you really don’t want God or anyone else messing with.

These too must be yielded to God as a part of turning over all of your heart, soul, mind, and body to Him. Romans 12:1-2 says

Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.

This is a part of growing wisdom in your heart and life.