A recent report on happiness (it’s hard to keep up with them all!) suggests there are four recurring habits of the happiest people:
First, they exercise. Whether it’s formal or informal, they get off the couch and stay on the move.
Second, they prioritize personal connections. Whether it’s family mealtime, catching up with friends over lunch or organizing a 50th high school reunion, they spend time with other people.
Third, they’re grateful. They appreciate what they have and express their thankfulness to God and to all those who make it possible.
Fourth, they tend to have pets. Whether a dog or a cat – or both – studies show that our furry friends boost our happiness.
All of these finding make sense, but once more studies sometimes only duplicate or replicate what the Bible has already been telling us for thousands of years. In truth, social science is weak tea compared the Word of God.
In the epistle of Peter, Jesus’ apostle echoes the Psalmist (34:12-16) when he writes:
“Whoever desires to love life and see good days, let him keep his tongue from evil and his lips from speaking deceit; let him turn away from evil and do good; let him seek peace and pursue it. For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous, and his ears are open to their prayer. But the face of the Lord is against those who do evil” (1 Peter 3:10-12).
Those three sentences are packed with wisdom and instruction that exceed all of the human studies on happiness – combined.
Keeping our tongues from evil and our lips from deceitful speech may seem like obvious advice. But what are we watching or reading? Where and how are we spending our time? It’s easy to compartmentalize and rationalize. We say things like, “I don’t agree with it all, but I’ll still watch the movie.” We need to be careful. We need to be deliberate and thoughtful with our choices.
We need to turn away from evil when it comes our way, which it will and does in various forms. But here the Psalmist isn’t telling us to turn a blind eye or completely ignore – we’re to do something about it. “Do good” can mean different things for different people. We need to work within our sphere of influence and use our resources, gifts and talents to help as many people as we can.
A friend of mine was recently telling me about a young man who had stolen from his garage. He pulled him aside and began mentoring him. Instead of condemning he played a role in his rehabilitation.
Do you seek and pursue peace? What does that even look like? Is it your goal to “live peacefully with all men” (Romans 12:18) or are your harboring a grudge or bitterness of some sort? You may think you’re getting even – but the bitterness is eroding your happiness and contentment.
Lastly, the Lord wants to hear from us. He cares and He understands what we’re facing. He wants to help us. When we pour out the hurts of our hearts in prayer, He will be listening.
So, go for a run with your favorite dog, have lunch with a friend and give thanks for the beautiful day – but if you want to have a really good day, you’d be wise to recognize that true happiness goes much deeper.