Author and pastor Max Lucado has identified the secret to happiness in a consumer-driven world and said that striving to live a happy life is the “moral obligation” of every Christian.
Studies show that happiness is at a record low: Just 1 in 3 people consider themselves happy, according to the 2017 Harris Poll Survey of American Happiness.
The reason for these statistics, Lucado told Relevant podcast, is that “we are under constant attack from a multi-billion dollar marketing industry that tells us we have to find happiness in what we are on, what we drive, the diploma on the wall, what we do in the bedroom or the boardroom — that happiness depends upon exterior influences.”
The pastor at Oak Hills Church in San Antonio, Texas said that recently he turned on Sports Center to find out the score for a basketball game, and was instantly bombarded with commercials telling him he doesn’t have enough hair, needs to look younger, and that “real men” drive jeeps.
“I got bombarded in 90 seconds,” he said. “I think it was on my mind because I’d been thinking about this topic. But imagine if it’s not on your mind; imagine you’re not aware of this, imagine if you leave yourself exposed and vulnerable ... After those three commercials, you’re going to think, ‘I’m unhappy because I’m getting bald and getting old, and I’m driving the wrong car.'”
“Multiply that by 100 such messages a day,” he said.
The pastor posited that, according to Scripture, "happiness is really a moral obligation that we have."
"We do the world a favor when we pursue happiness; not selfishness, but happiness," he explained. "When we’re genuinely discovering a sense of contentment that doesn’t depend on any circumstance, then we’re going to be a member of our family, better member of the workforce, better member of society, and if we’re a churchgoer, a better member of the church.”
We do the world a “favor,” the How Happiness Happens author emphasized, “by going on the offensive” — and Scripture is packed with suggestions on how to find the happiness that doesn’t depend on other people or situations.
“If I want to be more like Christ, then I will wake up every day saying, ‘Ok, how can I make other people happy?’” Lucado said. "This is why the ‘one another’ verses in Scripture are so profound and practical. There’s over 50 of them and these passages encourage us to do everything from teach one another, forgive one another, love one another, admonish one another, instruct one another, forgive one another, be patient with one another. It’s all these practical little nuggets in Scripture.”
He continued: “The good news is, that if I want to be happy today, all I need to do is take two or three of these and say, ‘today is the day I’m going to be patient with someone.’ Or, ‘I’m going to tolerate someone.’ Or, I’m going to forgive someone. I’m going to put these into practice.”
“The great news is,” Lucado concluded, “as I try to put smiles on the faces of others, I end up putting a smile on my own face.”
A recent Pew Research Center report on religion and well-being found that religious attendance — rather than religious affiliation — was consistently linked to higher levels of happiness than for those around the world who claim no faith.
In the United States specifically, 36 percent of actively religious people said they were “very happy” compared to only 25 percent of “unaffiliated” or “inactive” churchgoers.
"We see commands such as 'rejoice,' 'do not be afraid,' 'be of good cheer,' 'give thanks,’” she said. “The only real happiness we'll ever have is living a life seeking God. When we follow His commands, we find the true recipe for happiness."
In modern Christian culture, the idea of being "happy" isn't necessarily popular, the author admitted. But after spending a year studying the idea of happiness, she discovered that science "consistently backed what Scripture said."
"We often hear, 'happiness is a fleeting feeling, but joy is what we should have as Christians; if you're a Christian, you shouldn't strive for happiness,'" she said. "But there is nothing biblical about that statement. Happiness and holiness go hand in hand, and I think to deny that hurts our witness."