“We are hard pressed on every side, yet not crushed; we are perplexed, but not in despair” (2 Corinthians 4:8).
PAUL HAD AN UNDERLYING JOY THAT COULD NOT BE TAKEN AWAY FROM HIM, BUT “HAPPINESS” COULD BE TAKEN AWAY, AND IT OFTEN WAS. Happiness is the enjoyment of pleasant circumstances. It is how we feel when what is “happening” is what we like, and that is an enjoyment we should not fail to take advantage of whenever it’s possible. But obviously, what is happening is not always pleasant. At such times, we need to be able to do without happiness and say what Paul said, “We are hard pressed on every side, yet not crushed; we are perplexed, but not in despair.”
Happiness is nice. I don’t want anything I say on this page to sound like “sour grapes.” I value happiness as much as anyone else. When it is present in my life, I enjoy it greatly, and I hope that I’m as thankful for it as I should be. But whatever else you can say about happiness, one thing you can’t say is that it is essential.
Happiness is unnecessary. We can do without happiness if we have to. It is not the summum bonum in life, the ultimate good. I don’t think it rates anywhere near the top of the list of the most important things in this life. But even if someone disagreed and said it was the most important thing to have in this life, I would still stay it is unnecessary. There is simply nothing in this life that we can’t do without. God is all we have to have. So things like happiness can be relinquished, if need be. We can survive their loss.
Obviously, it takes some learning to get to the point where we can live without things like happiness. Paul said that he knew how to be empty as well as full, but he said he had learned how to be empty: “I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content: I know how to be abased, and I know how to abound. Everywhere and in all things I have learned both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need” (Philippians 4:11,12).
But once we have learned to live without happiness, look at the strong position that puts us in. The devil’s main power over most people is the threat of taking away their happiness. But the Christian can say, “Go ahead; take it away. I can live without it.”
“The greatest happiness you can have is knowing that you do not necessarily require happiness” (William Saroyan).