How Can Reading God’s Word Promote Lasting Happiness?

“How sweet Your word is to my taste—sweeter than honey in my mouth.” (Psalm 119:103, HCSB)

“The Bible is not an end in itself, but a means to bring men to an intimate and satisfying knowledge of God, that they may enter into Him, that they may delight in His Presence, may taste and know the inner sweetness of the very God Himself in the core and center of their hearts.” —A. W. Tozer

George Müller (1805–1898), an Englishman who spent his life caring for thousands of orphans in the 1800s, suffered from bad health and the weight of stressful responsibilities. One day he wrote in his journal, “This morning I greatly dishonored the Lord by irritability manifested toward my dear wife.” He said he fell “on my knees before God, praising him for having given me such a wife.”

Müller didn’t excuse his irritability. He knew his unhappiness and bad mood had displeased God and hurt his wife. He owned up to it. But he couldn’t eliminate stress or periodic bad health. So what was his solution? He wrote,

I saw more clearly than ever that the first great and primary business to which I ought to attend every day was, to have my soul happy in the Lord. The first thing to be concerned about was, not how much I might serve the Lord, but how I might get my soul into a happy state, and how my inner man might be nourished. . . . I saw that the most important thing I had to do was to give myself to the reading of the Word of God, and to meditation on it.

On another occasion Müller said, “In what way shall we attain to this settled happiness of soul? How shall we learn to enjoy God? . . . This happiness is to be obtained through the study of the holy Scriptures.”

Our happiness is proportionate to our investment in studying God’s Word. My conversion to Christ didn’t just make me a better person; it made me a happier person. As I’ve grown closer to Jesus, He has produced in me a deeper and greater happiness. Not because I’ve seen less evil and suffering—indeed, I’ve seen far more than I did when I was less happy.

My intellectual life and spiritual life aren’t on different tracks. They’re inseparable—Jesus said we’re to love the Lord our God with our hearts and our minds (see Matthew 22:37). Had I not taken time to go deep and ponder God and His truth and His ways, all the spiritual inclinations in the world wouldn’t have left me with a settled happiness. “As your words came to me I drank them in, and they filled my heart with joy and happiness because I belong to you, O Lord, the God who rules over all” (Jeremiah 15:16, NET).

There’s nothing wrong with things such as sports and politics and today’s news. But being an expert in those areas doesn’t prepare us to live wisely, make Christ-centered decisions, lead our families through hard times, or prepare us to die well. Time in God’s Word does.

People are unhappy because they listen to the thousands of unhappy voices clamoring for attention. Joy comes from listening to and believing words of joy from the source of joy. Jesus said, “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me” (John 10:27). When we follow Him, we’re happy. When we don’t, we’re not.

Many Christian men would agree that they’re experts in business, hunting, fishing, football, or cars. What if they took even half their time devoted to political talk shows and hobbies and invested it in learning solid Bible doctrine through listening to the Bible and reading great Christian books? As many others do, they could converse theologically with as much knowledge and pleasure as they can about sports, hunting, fishing, cars, or politics.

We all talk about what we know best—what’s most important to us. That means we need to change what’s important to us by investing more time in it.

How many men have frequent God-centered conversations today—with each other, their wives, and their children? How much pleasure and happiness are we depriving ourselves of by talking about everything except what matters most?

Calvin Miller (1936–2012) lamented, “Never have there been so many disciples who did so little studying. . . . Our day is plagued by hordes of miserable Christians whose pitiful study habits give them few victories and much frustration. Serious students will develop dynamic minds and a confident use of the gifts God has given to them.”

Scripture is joy-giving and liberating, not hostile and condemning. On the one hand, the law points out our unrighteousness, leading to our condemnation (see Romans 7:7). On the other hand, the life-giving aspect of the law caused David to happily celebrate it:

  • I delight in your commands because I love them (Psalm 119:47, NIV).
  • I deeply love your Law! I think about it all day (Psalm 119:97, CEV).

Charles Spurgeon said, “There is nothing in the Law of God that will rob you of happiness—it only denies you that which would cost you sorrow!”

Only by learning what Scripture says about God can we know what’s true about Him—and experience the truth-based happiness that flows from Him.

Holy and awesome God, you alone are worthy of our time and attention. Thank you for the life-giving, happiness-saturated gift of your Word! Help us realize what a treasure it is. May we not settle for anything less than daily seeking you through your Word and enjoying the happiness you’ve provided for us.

Browse more resourceson the topic of happiness, and see Randy’s related books, including Happiness and Does God Want Us to Be Happy?

Photo by Meredith Spencer on Unsplash

Randy Alcorn (@randyalcorn) is the author of over sixty books and the founder and director of Eternal Perspective Ministries