I think most of us want to be happy. That’s a given. If we had a choice between being happy and being unhappy, most of us would want happiness, wouldn’t we? Happiness is so ingrained our culture that our nation’s founding documents promise us “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” (notice the Declaration of Independence doesn’t promise us happiness, only the pursuit of happiness).
And that is what our lives are: the pursuit of happiness. But too many of us believe a myth about happiness, namely that happiness is determined by outward circumstances. If our spouse is acting right, if our parents love us, if our kids behave, if the government leaves us alone, if our boss is pleasant, if we’ve got money in the bank and food on the table, then we’ll be happy. Yet the biggest problem with this approach to happiness is that it takes our happiness out of our hands and puts it in the hands of people and forces outside of our control. Very rarely do the stars line up in our favor, everything conspiring to make our life easy and pleasant. Life in reality is dysfunctional and broken relationships, consequences of bad decisions and other people trying to get ahead at our expense. And thus, we’re unhappy. But we shouldn’t be.
In the ancient book of Philippians, the Apostle Paul reminds us of an ancient truth: that happiness is a choice. It is not determined by outward circumstances. “I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength” (Philippians 4:11-13).
Paul found his happiness from within, namely from his relationship with Christ. Which is why he could command the Christians in Philippi to “Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!” (Philippians 4:4). Happiness is and always has been a choice. Happiness comes from within, from our relationship with Christ, not from outward circumstances outside of our control.
If you’re unhappy, it’s because you choose to be. Your happiness is your choice. It always has been.