March 1, 2023 @ 7:00 AM

Happiness is different than joy, isn’t it? Happiness primarily depends on our circumstances and our feelings. For example, we feel happy when we succeed at a task or get a pay raise or buy a new car or make a sale. The problem with happiness is that it is fleeting; it doesn’t last. Apart from faith in Jesus Christ happiness is the best the world can offer.

Joy, on the other hand, is one of the nine fruits of the Holy Spirit. When the Holy Spirit is in control of us we experience joy even in the most difficult of circumstances. Let me submit exhibit A: Paul and Silas fastened in stocks in the dungeon of a jail in Philippi (Acts 16). What are they doing in that miserable situation? Praying and singing hymns of praise to God at midnight (Acts 16:25)! Who does that? The Spirit-filled Christian, that’s who.

But I digress. Let me focus on happiness. Harvard University researchers, Robert Waldinger and Marc Schulz, have come out with a book called, The Good Life: Lessons from the World’s Longest Scientific Study of Happiness. It is based on 84 years of studying the same individuals, asking thousands of questions and taking hundreds of measurements in the attempt to learn what really keeps people healthy and happy. What did they learn from all that effort? Being healthy and happy is not based on career advancement, a buff body, a healthy diet, a large stock portfolio, or money in the bank. It took researchers 84 years of longitudinal study to learn what you and I already knew from studying Genesis 2 in the Bible, “Good relationships keep us healthier and happier.”

Genesis 2:18 says, “Then the Lord God said, ‘It is not good for the man to be alone; I will make him a helper suitable for him.” Apart from the relationship within the trinity, Adam and Eve are the first human relationship mentioned in the Bible. Why make a “helper” for Adam? Because “it is not good for the man to be alone.” God knew that Adam needed to be in a relationship.

The inclusion of the adjective “Good” in both God’s and Waldinger and Schulz’s conclusion is significant. Some long-term relationships are, to borrow a phrase from Dr. Scott Stanley, “a stable state of misery.” Dysfunctional, awful relationships are not good relationships. They don’t keep us healthier and happier but good relationships do.  They are healthier. The online journal, WebMD, tells us, “Married men and married women had a death rate two-and-a-half times lower than the rate for widows. the divorced , or singles.” Aside from many other factors, these statistics tell us that relationships indeed are healthier.

Are they happier? Are married couples happier than non-married couples? Again research shows that the happiness quotient in good relationships is significantly higher. The Institute for Family Studies (Feb. 7, 2022) says, “Indeed, married people are happier than unmarried people: across nearly five decades of surveys, data from the GSS shows that 36% of people who have ever been married (including divorced, separated, and widowed people) say they are “very happy” while just 11% are “not too happy,” compared to 22% and 15% for people who have never married. Despite changing public views, the truth is married people really are happier.”

Happy are the people whose God is the LORD (Psalm 144:15)!