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The Secret to Happiness

I’ll be happy when…

…I get out of my parent’s house.

…I get that new car.

…I get a new job.

…I get a girlfriend or boyfriend.

…I get married.

…people start treating me differently

We’ve all been there before, thinking that if our circumstances change, we will be happy. When we look at others who have the things we want, they seem more content. As we compare ourselves to them, we feel inadequate. We often over-emphasize the negatives in our lives and only highlight the positives in others. Most of us think we’d be happier with a bigger house, a newer car, a bigger paycheck.

I call it the Lottery Syndrome. We might not be out there spending our money on scratch-offs, but we are constantly buying the latest and greatest piece of technology and hoping it provides more joy than the thing we just upgraded. Or we are changing jobs, changing churches, and changing partners, trying to find “the one who will satisfy.” I don’t think God intended for us to be chasing happiness. I don’t think he hid it in stuff and circumstances that some people get and others miss out on.

I don’t think God intended for us to be chasing happiness.

David’s prayer in Psalm 16 directly counters this mentality. David had a way of thinking that produced joy and contentment in his life despite difficult things. In 1 Samuel 16, the prophet went to Jesse’s home to have a feast and anoint the next King of Israel from one of Jesse’s sons. All the sons of Jesse pass by Samuel, but God doesn’t choose one of them. Samuel asks Jesse, “Do you have any other sons?” You can almost hear Jesse choke when he says, “There’s still the youngest. He’s out tending the sheep.”

Why wasn’t David invited to the feast? It seems to me that Jesse didn’t want him to be there. Jesse thought more highly of his other sons. David wasn’t invited to the party but was sent out to do the job no one else wanted to do. Yet his entrance isn’t a picture of a rejected young boy. David was described as glowing with health. He wasn’t mad that he was given the short end of the stick. He was filled with contentment even though his family didn’t want him there. How is this possible?

David was full of gratitude, whether he was king or a shepherd boy.

In Psalm 16, David makes a couple statements, “Apart from you (Lord), I have no good thing,” and, “Lord, you alone are my portion and my cup; you make my lot secure. The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; surely I have a delightful inheritance.” I think these two statements, which were attitudes of David’s heart, give us insight into how David was glowing.

God-focused, Not Self-pitying

To David, God was first and foremost the good thing. In fact, all good things we experience in this life are just an imperfect reflection of the God Who is The Good Thing. When we understand this, we realize we’ve already won the lottery because we have Him. Everything else in our lives becomes secondary. We can’t worship God and have self-pity at the same time.

Gratitude, Not Excuses

David focused on what he had instead of what he didn’t have.David wasn’t comparing his life to others. To him,what God gave him was enough because God himself was enough. David’s gratitude sprang from his deep belief in God’s personal love and great wisdom.

I lIke to imagine David praying, “God, surely you’ve given me a delightful inheritance,” while he watched from outside as his family got ready for the feast with Samuel. Maybe he worshiped God while fully expecting one of his bif brothers to be king. David was full of gratitude, whether he was king or a shepherd boy.

When Did David Pray This Prayer?

I don’t know when David wrote this psalm. Maybe he was already anointed King but he was running for his life from Saul who wanted to kill him. David was reminding himself of the promises of God, even though everything in his life was against him.

Maybe David was on the throne with comfort and wealth surrounding him and his victories behind him. David was heavy with the burden of leadership and remembering when days were more simple, back when his only responsibility was tending sheep and worshiping God. David was determined to find joy in the Lord and not in his circumstances.

Maybe David was suffering from the consequences of his terrible sin with Bathsheba. He was reminding himself of the attitudes he had lost, that God alone was the one who satisfies and offers true peace.

I don’t think it really matters, because it was an attitude that was in his heart throughout his life. In 1 Samuel 16, God says that He doesn’t look at outward appearances but looks at the heart. Long before David wrote this prayer down, his heart was convinced that God was enough for him, and no matter the circumstances he was going to find joy.

What about you? Do you tend to feel sorry for yourself or do you choose gratitude? When people let you down, is the love of God enough for you?

According to David, that’s the real secret to happiness.

ben-croppedCurrently leading our Fall Discipleship Training School,  Ben has been on staff with YWAM Louisville for five years.When you meet him, he strikes you as a pretty laid-back guy – until you get him talking about something he cares about. His love for the Lord and passion for discipleship are evident to all who know him.