Psalm 1

What Makes Us Happy?

How do you seek happiness?

Is happiness a goal or a result of a goal achieved? Many people go through life seeking happiness, only to find it elude their grasp. Others always seem to be happy, even in the face of tragedy. Why is this so? Could those who seek happiness struggle to find it in the wrong places, with the wrong people, and with the wrong agenda? Is happiness a goal or a result of a goal achieved?

Psalm 1 proposed happiness was the result of a lifestyle. "Happy the person..." According to the psalmist, the happy person was one who avoided evil and studied the ways of God found in the Law. In other words, the happy person made God and his will (found in the Torah) the primary goal of life; "feeling good" was a secondary effect of faith.  By implicit contrast, the unhappy person was the cynic and evil-doer, the one who cared little for God's will, the one who thought he could make himself happy. By extending this logic a little further, the happy person placed God above self and lived for God; the unhappy person lived only for the self.

1 Blessed is the man who doesn't walk in the counsel of the wicked,
nor stand in the way of sinners,
nor sit in the seat of scoffers;
2 but his delight is in the law of YHWH.
On his law he meditates day and night.
3 He will be like a tree planted by the streams of water,
that brings forth its fruit in its season,
whose leaf also does not wither.
Whatever he does shall prosper.

World English Bible

The way to happiness, then, was to live according to God's commands in every conscious moment (1:2b). This paralleled what was also expressed in the Shema (Deu. 6:4-9):

Hear, O Israel! The LORD is our God, the LORD alone! Therefore, you shall love the LORD, your God, with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength. Take to heart these words which I enjoin on you today. Drill them into your children. Speak of them at home and abroad, whether you are busy or at rest. Bind them at your wrist as a sign and let them be as a pendant on your forehead. Write them on the doorposts of your houses and on your gates. (NAB)

Notice this dedication to God was more than a commitment; it was a lifestyle and a value to pass on to the next generation. The result of that lifestyle created consistency and growth. (1:3) By contrast, the self-centered shot from fad to fad in the search of fulfillment; their lifestyle was like "chaff that blew away with the wind." (1:4)

4 The wicked are not so,
but are like the chaff which the wind drives away.
5 Therefore the wicked shall not stand in the judgment,
nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous.
6 For YHWH knows the way of the righteous,
but the way of the wicked shall perish.

In the end, God would favor the faithful, not those who placed self above all. The faithful would gather together with him (the "assembly of the just") while the self-absorbed would find judgement and ruin. (1:5-6; it is unclear whether these verses referred to comment on a present state of affairs or a belief in an end times "Day of the Lord").

"The faith-filled person is happy." I have found that statement to be true by experience. The people I most admire are those who live happily with God. That commitment shades their entire existence in a joyful glow. Their smile is genuine, their love for their spouse and children overflows. These are the people I want to be around; these are the people I am proud to call my friends and my heroes. I find their happiness is infectious, because it finds its roots in something I value most of all: a deep love for God.

How is your faith and love for God the cause of your happiness?