A popular idea circulating rapidly nowadays is that we as humans can choose to be happy. Everyone wants to be happy. It’s been a universal craving throughout all of history. So as a remedy to this great problem of ours, some people in today’s world are telling us to “choose happiness.” But can we? I mean, it sounds nice; to just be able to say that we’re happy and all of the sudden it’s true. But real life doesn’t work like that. We could say that the sky is green as much as we wanted, but it would still be blue. So what truth can we pull out of this?
One thing most people have in mind when they say that we can “choose happiness” is that our joy is not based on our surroundings. This is a very profound truth indeed. Look at how happy some people are who have practically nothing. And then there are people who have all they could ever want, and yet they’re miserable. It’s all about perspective. But never forget that we can’t just focus on only the good things in our lives to gain satisfaction. When we do that, we rely on our surroundings as if they are all we need to nourish our soul, and this is a grave mistake. Nothing on this earth can give us real, lasting joy. That much is certain.
“Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride in possessions—is not from the Father but is from the world. And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever.” – 1 John 2:15-17
True happiness is not defeated by circumstance, but true happiness can’t ultimately be found in circumstance. True happiness can’t be found by introspection or the changing of our attitude either. We can’t just produce joy out of thin air. Our default condition is a tragic one, and if we aren’t ashamed and broken by our lostness, then we’re blinded in our own sin and selfishness. That’s a fact, my friends. We are wretches. We are all sinners against a perfect God, and we’re only interested in ourselves. Any pathetic imitation of true joy coming out of a life like that is only put on for selfish, prideful reasons. “I want to be happy,” we say. We want to be happy despite what’s taking place around us. But we also want to be happy without God, because coming to God means realizing what horrible creatures we are. That’s scary—terrifying, even. So we run from the light with a forced smile, trying to convince ourselves that we’re satisfied. But we’re not.
“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God. And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil. For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed. But whoever does what is true comes to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that his works have been carried out in God.” – John 3:16-21
“Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me.” – Philippians 4:11-13
We can’t be satisfied apart from God. We may get some temporary pleasures out of life, but we are cut off from true joy until we embrace the arms of our Savior, Jesus Christ. So the answer is, “No.” We can’t choose happiness. Not without choosing Christ. Looking in the mirror and “declaring” ourselves joyful is useless. It’s madness! It’s as crazy as looking in the fridge and “declaring” that a fully prepped meal will appear out of nowhere. Don’t let vague, feel-good advice allow you to look for a solution to this problem anywhere but Christ. Find joy in Him by feasting on the words of divine power that He has given us in Scripture. Worship and glorify Him by physically and mentally bowing low before Him in prayer, waiting on His perfect timing for the answers to your petitions. Only in His presence, broken and weeping, casting our burdens on Him and trusting in His sovereign hand, can we find true, eternal joy.
“I said in my heart, ‘Come now, I will test you with pleasure; enjoy yourself.’ But behold, this also was vanity. I said of laughter, ‘It is mad,’ and of pleasure, ‘What use is it?'” – Ecclesiastes 2:1-2
“I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.” – John 15:5
“I say to the LORD, ‘You are my Lord; I have no good apart from you.'” – Psalm 16:2
“You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.” – Psalm 16:11