This question is probably not so difficult to answer. But how do you actually become happy? How do you attain total peace, contentment, and joy in life? Is that even possible?
One evening recently, I remembered a story I heard a while ago, about a weak, elderly man who was out walking with a younger man. The elderly man turned to the young man and said with enthusiasm, “I am so happy! Do you know why? Because I don’t want anything anymore!” During the course of his life, the old man had let go of his own egocentric will in exchange for doing God’s good will. That is what had made him so happy.
The next day I was riding in a car with a co-worker, and our conversation turned to a TV-program that had troubled both of us. It was about young people who placed nearly impossible demands on their partners, and generally on how their lives should go. They demanded a glamorous lifestyle with elegant homes, good looks, and gourmet food. The worst part was that these young people seemed convinced that if their demands were met, they would find happiness. Is this true?
I thought back to the words from the night before; about the clarity they brought, and the simplicity in which they were spoken. The elderly man’s words speak of an understanding that extends far beyond what people generally associate with happiness. It is happiness irrespective of external circumstances. It is the joy you receive by giving up your own will.
I thought, Is it that simple? Is it true that you can become happy by giving up your own demands?
An example in happy living
In Hebrews 1:9 it is written, “You have loved righteousness and hated lawlessness; therefore God, Your God, has anointed You with the oil of gladness more than Your companions.”
This scripture describes how it was for Jesus while He lived here on earth. He was anointed with the oil of gladness more than His companions were; in other words, He was happier than the people around Him were. But what was this righteousness that He loved, and where did the lawlessness come from?
He loved God’s will, which was that He should suffer patiently, be longsuffering with people, bless, and do good.
Jesus Himself says, “For I have come down from heaven, not to do My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me.” (John 6:38). He loved God’s will, and He lived to do it. Lawlessness, which He hated, was His own will – His human tendencies that were the opposite of God’s will.
We see, for example, in Matthew 26:38-44 how Jesus fought in His prayers so that His own will would not gain power. This is how Jesus battled every day of His life when He noticed that irritation, anxiety, or impatience was trying to weigh Him down. He loved God’s will, which was that He should suffer patiently, be longsuffering with people, bless, and do good.
Like this elderly man, Jesus did not want anything for himself. Every day while He was here on earth, He presented himself to do the will of His heavenly Father, and at the same time said “no” to everything that lay outside of this will.
If I believe that the life of Jesus is worth following, I also, like Him, must give up my own human will!
Giving up my will = becoming happy?
As humans, we have an incredibly strong human will that shows itself from the time we are small children. We have opinions about our rights, how we ought to be treated, how we look, our abilities, and how we want things to be. When my plans fail, due to unforeseen circumstances, or someone opposes me and my will, then my happiness is put to the test. It is in these situations, which all people experience to a greater or lesser degree, that our human will would weigh us down with anxiety, bitterness, or the feeling of being unjustly treated.
How can I preserve happiness, peace, and joy in such circumstances?
Quite simply by giving up my own will and trusting in God, which is what Jesus also did while He was here on earth. The sinful human will, will always be opposed to God’s will. “Because the carnal mind is enmity against God; for it is not subject to the law of God, nor indeed can be.” (Romans 8:7). It will drive us farther and farther away from the Savior Who disregarded His own will.
If in life’s circumstances I choose to say “YES” to my own will (and thereby say “no” to God’s will) I will end up in emptiness, in an unhappy and lonely place, alone with my own demands and away from God and his perfect guidance.
If you want to be happy, you also must place your whole life in God’s hands and trust our Heavenly Father. Then the Word from Matthew 6:33 will be fulfilled, “But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.” Only then will you be truly happy!
Oh, that many people would find the way to a happy life through this simple recipe, “No demands.”