I’ve blogged about six false expectations we can have that will diminish our happiness. So what truths should raise our expectations of happiness? Here are seven worth focusing on:
In Ephesians, Paul prays that the recipients of his letter may “have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God” (Ephesians 3:18-19).
He ends the chapter saying, “To him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever” (Ephesians 3:20-21).
After reading this inspired text, how great should our expectations of God be?
Ironically, it’s easier to be restored to a positive relationship with God than with any other being. As difficult as this is to grasp, when we do, it’s happy-making in the extreme.
God is the holiest being in the universe, meaning that His standards are infinitely higher than any creature’s. It would be easy to conclude, then, that God would be more prone than anyone else to hold our offenses against us. Yet the opposite is true. “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9). Who else will forgive us of everything, absolutely and every time—even when we’ve deeply hurt them?
It’s not the sinless God but sinful people who sometimes refuse to forgive us—just as we are sometimes slow to forgive.
Nothing we’ve done or can ever do will surprise God or cause Him to change His mind about us. No skeletons will fall out of our closets in eternity. He has seen us at our worst and still loves us. Arms wide open, He invites our confession and repentance, which He always meets with His grace and forgiveness.
How secure are we in God’s love? Jesus said, “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand” (John 10:27-28).
Matthew Henry said, “Happy are those who have the Lord for their God, for they have a God that they cannot be robbed of. Enemies may steal our goods, but not our God.”
Joshua 1:9 offers this encouragement: “The Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” Jesus promised His disciples, “I am with you always” (Matthew 28:20). Here is a source of both comfort and courage: “Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand” (Isaiah 41:10).
Our happiness is largely determined by who or what we depend on. If we depend on God, we’ll be happy because God is always with us: “God’s Spirit dwells in you” (1 Corinthians 3:16). Of course, sometimes we’ll sense His presence more than other times. But He is there for us when life is dry, stressful, or traumatic, helping us and even praying for us: “The Spirit helps us in our weakness. . . . The Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words” (Romans 8:26).
The stories of many prisoners—including Corrie ten Boom, Richard Wurmbrand, and Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn—document that they survived imprisonment and torture because God’s supernatural indwelling presence was their lifeline. We who know Jesus have the same.
“God has said, ‘Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you’” (Hebrews 13:5, NIV). Such a promise offers us happiness in the most difficult times and places.
Never underestimate the life-changing nature of God’s inspired Word: “All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right. God uses it to prepare and equip his people to do every good work” (2 Timothy 3:16-17, NLT). Meditating on Scripture, which God uses to make us more like Christ, is a powerful source of personal happiness.
God promises that His Word “will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it” (Isaiah 55:11). He does not promise that about OUR words, but HIS. If we want our words to have lasting value and impact, they need to be touched and shaped by His words—and that won’t happen without a daily choice to expose our minds to Scripture.
When Jesus said “it is finished” John 19:30), he used the Greek word teleo, which was commonly written over certificates of debt once they were fully paid. It means “nothing more is owed; there is no more debt to be paid.” It’s not that Christ took on 99% of our sin and guilt and we must carry the other 1%. It’s that He took it all on.
Consider this promise: “[God’s] divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness” (2 Peter 1:3). We’re also told that God has “blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places” (Ephesians 1:3). We can rejoice knowing that Christ has already provided all we need for salvation and eternal happiness.
We can be confident knowing that God is in control of the details of our lives: “Yours, O Lord, is the greatness and the power and the glory and the victory and the majesty, for all that is in the heavens and in the earth is yours. Yours is the kingdom, O Lord, and you are exalted as head above all. Both riches and honor come from you, and you rule over all. In your hand are power and might, and in your hand it is to make great and to give strength to all” (1 Chronicles 29:11-12).
God pays a great deal of attention to the “little things.” He numbers the hairs on our heads and cares for the lilies of the field. Jesus said, “Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. But even the hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not, therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows” (Matthew 10:29-31).
Our fates do not rest in the hands of fallen humankind: politicians, lawyers, military officers, employers, or even spouses and children. No matter what happens, and how much it hurts, God is fully capable of using painful events for good.
“You have endowed him with eternal blessings and given him the joy of your presence” (Psalm 21:6, NLT). “And the ransomed of the LORD shall return and come to Zion with singing; everlasting joy shall be upon their heads; they shall obtain gladness and joy, and sorrow and sighing shall flee away” (Isaiah 51:11).
Jonathan Edwards wrote, “After they have had the pleasure of beholding the face of God millions of ages, it will not grow a dull story; the relish of this delight will be as exquisite as ever.”
Undiminished happiness is promised us—what other king has ever promised his people anything so great? And what other king has undergone for his subjects the ultimate sacrifice to fulfill that promise?Excerpted from Randy's book Happiness.
Photo by Manik Rathee via Unsplash
Randy Alcorn (@randyalcorn) is the author of over sixty books and the founder and director of Eternal Perspective Ministries.