by James Rudy Gray
Why are so many people unhappy? If we examine the word “happy” we will learn that the root is “hap,” which means chance or circumstance. Happiness is a good feeling we have when right or good things happen to us. If that’s the case, good or favorable things must not be happening in the lives of unhappy people.
Joy is more durable than happiness. It feels basically the same, but comes to us not through happenings but from God’s Spirit: “The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy...” (Gal. 5:22).
What about the sad, unsatisfied, frustrated, or unhappy state many people are experiencing today? The culprit behind most of the unhappiness or dissatisfaction in people’s lives seems to be a lack of healthy relationships in which they are well-connected to other people. Our drive for power or control often sabotages our relationships.
Dr. William Glasser, founder of Choice Theory and Reality Therapy, cites seven deadly habits that destroy relationships: criticizing, blaming, complaining, nagging, threatening, punishing, and rewarding in order to control. He further proposes seven “connecting” habits that will allow us the tools to build satisfying relationships and thus avoid a great deal of the emotional misery many feel today: caring, trusting, listening, supporting, negotiating, be-friending, and encouraging.
Glasser is a world-renowned psychiatrist, but what is clearly missing in his observations, theories, and practices is faith in God. There are many good tools for building better outlooks or attitudes, but the foundation on which we build and what we build must be the truth of God if we expect consistency across the seasons and struggles of life. Glasser’s suggestions are practical and useful, but seem to be incomplete at the foundational level.
Psalm 1:1-3 offers a very basic but essential framework for building a blessed or happy life: “How blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked, nor stand in the path of sinners, nor sit in the seat of scoffers! But his delight is in the law of the Lord, and in His law he meditates day and night. He will be like a tree firmly planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in its season and its leaf does not wither; and in whatever he does, he prospers.”
We can live joyful lives. It is imperative that we have the right foundation for the journey, which is a relationship in which we are connected to God through the new birth in Jesus Christ. Then we can develop that relationship as we grow through the seasons, challenges, and changes of life. At all times, we have a compass that should enable us to check our direction and help us determine the need for changes in our course. Jesus said in Matthew 6:33, “Seek first His kingdom and His righteousness…” If a Christian is off base here, nothing will really provide effective help until we make the necessary adjustment and put first things first in our lives.
The writings and counsel of others who are not even Christians can be of help to us, but those concepts must be filtered through the standard of God’s Word and then used, adjusted, or rejected according to how they relate to the Truth.
James Rudy Gray, who pastors Utica Baptist Church in Seneca, S.C., is certified as a professional counselor by the National Board for Certified Counselors, and is a member of the American Association of Christian Counselors.