In the late 1990s, Martin Seligman, the president of the American Psychological Association, noted psychology’s emphasis on the negative side of life, including depression and anxiety, while ignoring the positive, including happiness and well-being. His observation spurred new research and hundreds of articles on happiness.
One of the central topics addressed in these studies is this simple question: Can people become happier? The resounding answer is yes—to a degree. Researchers say there are limits on human happiness, some genetic and some relating to humanity’s general condition (which, from the Christian worldview, is caused by sin and the Curse).
Though in my books on happiness (including Does God Want Us to Be Happy?) I emphasize an understanding of happiness based on the Bible, theology, and church history, I’ve also read a dozen or so secular books on happiness. Many writers document remarkable discoveries about happiness that conform to biblical teachings—though few appear to realize the connection.
For instance, modern happiness studies demonstrate that wealth, success, power, and popularity are not indicators of happiness. People who choose gratitude and engage in respectful, others-centered relationships are happier than those who are self-focused and driven by feelings of entitlement. 
With their talk of being thankful, serving others, and giving generously of time and money—accompanied by the assurance that money, sex, and power won’t buy happiness— progressive secular psychologists sound remarkably like old-fashioned preachers!
Consider the results of a Duke University study that concluded happiness is fostered by eight factors:
While reading this study, I found myself often writing Bible verses in the margins, summarizing the findings: “Love your neighbor as yourself” (Matthew 22:39), “Give thanks in all circumstances” (1 Thessalonians 5:18), “[Forgive] each other . . . as the Lord has forgiven you” (Colossians 3:13).
Compare this list point by point to the study’s eight-part conclusion:
Secular studies, naturally, say nothing about our need to know and love the God of the Bible. Sonja Lyubomirsky may be the best-known happiness researcher in the world. She admits, “I don’t have a religious or spiritual bone in my body.”  But, she says, the studies clearly show that religious people are happier. Her advice? “If it seems natural for you to practice religion and spirituality, then by all means do it.” 
She’s speaking in the best interest of people’s happiness. But of course, the solution isn’t pretending to believe something if we don’t. Without a personal relationship with God, we won’t enjoy true peace and happiness.
A naturalistic worldview that embraces randomness, ultimate meaninglessness, and survival of the fittest doesn’t lend itself to happiness. People can borrow certain values from a Christian worldview, but without faith in Christ and the indwelling Spirit as an agent of change, they’re left without a solid foundation for happiness.
Psychologists and self-help books offer proven methods for increasing our subjective sense of happiness. However, this marginal contentment can numb people into complacency. A self-achieved, tolerable happiness can anesthetize us into becoming mere sin managers, distancing us from our desperate need for God. Even when this strategy appears sufficient for now, it can’t survive the Day of Judgment.
The question of how to reconcile evil people with a God who hates evil is the greatest problem of history. It calls for no less than the greatest solution ever devised—one so radical it appears foolish to the sophisticated—and that is the cross of Christ. “The word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God” (1 Corinthians 1:18).
Psychologist David Powlison said, “Don’t ever degenerate into giving good advice unconnected with the good news of Jesus crucified, alive, present, at work, and returning.”  Good advice is always better than bad advice. Yet those trapped in a burning building need more than advice—they need good news coupled with practical action. People who are Hell bound need someone who will brave the searing flames, rescue them from sin’s destruction, and bring everlasting happiness.
 Sonja Lyubomirsky, The How of Happiness: A Scientific Approach to Getting the Life You Want (New York: Penguin, 2008).
 “Peace of Mind,” Duke University sociological study, cited in Rudy A. Magnan, Reinventing American Education (Bloomington, IN: Xlibris Corporation, 2010), 23.
 Sonja Lyubomirsky, “Happiness and Religion, Happiness as Religion,” How of Happiness (blog), Psychology Today, June 25, 2008.
 Lyubomirsky, How of Happiness, 234.