I once heard someone say, "I'd rather be happy than right." While I can't remember who said it or in what context, it stuck with me. I've seen too many arguments between people who were both equally convinced they were right and the other person was completely wrong. Even if one of them happens to be right, I doubt there would be much happiness in the relationship between the two of them.
If the secret to happiness were a single or several verses in the Bible, then I believe there would be a lot more happy people in this world. However, the opposite is true. I see people from all walks of life, rich and poor alike who are and are not happy. The "secret" isn't the presence or absence of money. We all know that, and so I conclude we've missed something somewhere along the way in the pursuit of happiness.
In truth, I believe the real secret to happiness is no secret at all. Being happy is just plain common sense and so obvious, that I believe there was no need to write it down in the form of instruction. Happiness just happens, if the right elements are in place.
Look at a child playing. Are they happy? Has anyone instructed them in such a way as "First, do this. Second, do that. Third, you must . . ." and so on? Nope. Children play. In case you haven't noticed before, as soon as adults interfere with rules and things, it kind of kills the fun the kids were having. Even without real toys, children find creative ways to play.
Just last week after I unpacked a box, there were these long pieces of styrofoam left over on the floor. Within minutes, these had been commandeered by my two little girls who had placed small toy animals in all the little crevices and were pushing them down the hallway. When I asked what they were doing, they explained to me that the animals were on a cruise. Huh? Styrofoam packing boards as cruise ships? Yet, there they were, playing away, and quite happy. No rules. No instructions. Just living from their hearts and imaginations.
As we grow into adults, we are actually taught to do the opposite of the very thing God programmed into us. We are taught to ignore the pleadings and desires of our hearts, and we are taught to follow rules, be responsible, and above all, ignore the imaginations and pleadings of your heart.
Without Christ in your life, maybe this is actually pretty good advice. However, as Christians, God has said that if we will delight in Him, then He will give us the desires of our HEART. (Psalm 37:4) Problem is, there is too much "Bible teaching" that you must do this and do that, wear this not that, act this way not that way, and then maybe, just maybe, God will be pleased with you and bless you.
That's all backwards! God wants us to delight in Him, recognize our kinship and relationship with Him, and as His children, our hearts desires will be fulfilled.
As a child lives from their heart and finds happiness in the discarded things of life, so we may as Christians find happiness living from our hearts. Not the heart of the old flesh that is "deceitful and desperately wicked" or the "heart of stone" that was part of the old man, but out of our new heart; the new heart God has given us to replace the heart of stone. (Eze 36:26) The heart God gave us when we were born again is not "deceitful and desperately wicked" but rather a new heart. Our new heart is a treasure to be guarded (Prov. 4:23) as something precious and valuable, because out of that new heart we may live a happy life.
The secret to happiness then, is to follow that new heart.
If time and money were no object, what would you do? First, discard the temporal things that may spring to mind like buying a new car, a new house, or traveling somewhere (that's the old heart speaking); for these are temporary. In your new heart, when you were born again, you were given a desire to do something special, something that would make the world a better place, something that would help others. If you could do anything in the world, when your new heart speaks, what is it you hear?
When we listen to the new heart God has given us, and begin to live in a way that fulfills the desires of that new heart, we not only find purpose and meaning in life, we find happiness. As a child finds happiness in discarded things that would be thrown away simply by following their own heart, so we as adults can find happiness in this life by following the desires of our new hearts. What are the desires of your new heart?