by Dr. Jeff Hagan
Everyone, believer or non-believer, wants to achieve happiness. There is nothing wrong with wanting to be happy as long as it is not our end all goal. Other than not having a relationship with Christ, the biggest thing that holds us back from accomplishing our dreams is, unfortunately, ourselves. We put limitations on ourselves every day, whether consciously or subconsciously. There are several practical things we can do to overcome these restraints.
“Life can either be something you embrace or something you hide from.” Stop making things more complicated than they actually are and just start living your life. It would be so much easier and more enjoyable if we would learn to just release certain unnecessary and unbiblical limitations.
Let’s look at some of the things you need to let go of on your journey to becoming a happier person. I am fully aware of the biblical difference between happiness and true joy, so please don’t criticize this work before you begin reading it. My purpose is to simply offer basic instructions for better living. So, with that in mind, things you need to let go of are:
1. The Approval of Others
When it really boils down to it, who cares what other people think? If you are happy with the decisions you have made, and you have sought God’s will along the way, then whose business is that but you and God’s? Imagine how much you could accomplish if you stopped letting other people’s opinions dictate the way you live your life. You do you, don’t let them do you. Pray, obey and study the Word, and from there take the actions you discover that might improve your life.
Galatians 1:10, “For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ” (ESV).
2. Anger, Bitterness and Resentment
Anger will eat away at you from the inside. Learn how to forgive those who may have wronged you. This isn’t about dismissing the other persons harmful actions; it is about easing the pain that it caused inside of you. Remember that whoever you let anger you controls you. Forgiveness and letting go can actually lead you down the road of healing and peace.
Colossians 3:13, “Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you” (NIV).
3. Negative Body Image
This is a big one in the culture we find ourselves living in. Only one person’s opinion should matter to you when it comes to your body and that is you. There is nobody out there who can determine what a “correct” body type is. If you are comfortable with yourself, and you are healthy, then that should be all that matters. Do not let others make you feel that you are less than beautiful because if you believe you are, then you are.
Ephesians 2:10a, “For we are his [God’s] workmanship, created in Christ Jesus…” (ESV).
Genesis 1:27, “So God created human beings in his own image. In the image of God he created them; male and female he created them” (NLT).
4. Finding a Perfect Partner
There is no such thing as a perfect partner, so go ahead and throw your checklist in the garbage. In life, often times what keeps us from moving forward is looking at the perfect image of a partner that we create in our minds. Find the right person for you: one that you can pour all of your heart into, one you feel comfortable being yourself with. The sooner you realize there is no one perfect person out there for you, the better off you will be. The following is not a bible verse as has been the pattern so far, but I believe the words are appropriate for our purposes on this point.
“He’s not perfect. You aren’t either, and the two of you
will never be perfect. But if he can make you laugh at
least once, causes you to think twice, and if he admits
to being human and making mistakes, hold onto him
and give him the most you can. He isn’t going to quote
poetry, he’s not thinking about you every moment, but
he will give you a part of him that he knows you could
break. Don’t hurt him, don’t change him, and don’t ex-
pect for more than he can give. Don’t analyze. Smile
when he makes you happy, yell when he makes you
mad, and miss him when he’s not there. Love hard when
there is love to be had. Because perfect guys don’t ex-
ist, but there’s always one guy that is perfect for you
(emphasis mine).” – Bob Marley
5. A Perfect Life
Just like there is no perfect partner, there is also no perfect life to be had (this side of heaven). Life is what you put into it, so if you are not willing to do your part and put forth effort, you will probably find yourself unhappy or even miserable. The choices you make will directly influence the life you live. It is up to you to create the best possible world for yourself while here on this earth. However, make sure you keep your eyes focused on the eternal.
John 16:33b, “…In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world” (NIV).
6. You are Going to be Rich
Too many people live their lives with the dangling hope that they will one day be rich. While this is achieved only by a minority of the population, it is not something that can happen without hard work and dedication. Stop letting money be your only, or main, motivator. Find a career you are passionate about and do your best. Be content with what it brings you. Turn off your thoughts of winning the lottery each week and you won’t be let down each week. Again, focus on the eternal.
Luke 16:13, “No servant can serve two masters. Either he will hate one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money” (NIV, emphasis mine).
Matthew 6:19-21, “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth…But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven…where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (NIV).
7. Thoughts of Your Ex
Your ex is your ex for a reason. If you are going to think of him or her at all, try and focus only on the lessons the experience taught you. Do not linger on any old feelings as they will only keep you from being happy with someone else in the future. This applies to ex spouses as well as ex boyfriends and girlfriends. Of course God “hates” divorce, but if reconciliation is impossible and the relationship has ended, then this advice is important to follow.
Philippians 3:13b, “…But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and striving forward to what lies ahead,” (ESV).
8. Stubbornness and Pride
I know it’s hard to admit, but sometimes you are wrong. Other people have just as much of a chance as you do in coming up with a correct answer, so stop being stubborn and just accept it. The less stubborn you are, the more open you will be to learning new things. Think of all that could be uncovered to you if you started listening to the opinions of others and stopped focusing only on your own. Stubbornness springs out from pride, and nobody wants to be around a prideful person.
Proverbs 11:2, “When pride comes, then comes disgrace, but with the humble is wisdom” (ESV).
Jeremiah 7:24, “But they did not listen or pay attention; instead, they followed the stubborn inclinations of their evil hearts. They went backward not forward” (NIV).
Stop thinking you will finally get to whatever needs doing “tomorrow.” Live life in the present, and get your tasks done when they need to be done. Manage your time the best that you possibly can. This decreases, and can even eliminate, worry and stress by getting things out of the way as soon as possible. By doing so you give yourself more free time to enjoy the things you like doing.
Ecclesiastes 11:4, “If you wait for the perfect conditions, you’ll never get anything done” (LB).
Proverbs 13:4, “Lazy people want much but get little while the diligent are prospering” (LB).
All of us have been hurt by someone we loved. Bringing any of those negative feelings into future relationships will only prove to be destructive. No two people are the same, so it is unfair to hold a future friend accountable for how someone other than them has hurt you. Try to start each new relationship with a clean slate.
Hebrews 12:1, “…let us throw off everything that hinders…” (NIV).
What you put out will come back to you, so change your negative thinking right away. Whether we realize it or not we have so much to be grateful for. Just take time to reflect on those things and appreciate them. Numerous possibilities exist in the mind of someone who is positive.
Philippians 4:8, “Finally brothers [and sisters], whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about those things” (NIV).
12. Being Judgmental
Why do people feel the need to continually worry about what is going on in other people’s lives? If we spent as much time worrying about our own actions as we do worrying about the actions of others, our lives would be much more meaningful. You have no idea what is going on in another person’s life, or in their mind or heart, so who are you to pass judgment on the way they act?
Matthew 7:1-2, “Don’t pick on people, jump on their failures, criticize their faults – unless, of course, you want the same treatment. That critical spirit has a way of boomeranging” (MSG).
Matthew 7:1-2, “Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you” (NIV).
13. Jealousy or Envy
Happiness is not having what you want; it is wanting what you have. Stop being jealous of others and start appreciating what you have. This is the heart of the Tenth Commandment, “Do not covet.” Everyone’s life is unique; you have certain things to offer that others do not. When we act in a jealous way, all we do is bring negative feelings into our lives. There is absolutely nothing positive to be gained from acting this way.
James 3:16, “For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder and every vile practice” (ESV).
Exodus 20:17a, “You shall not covet you neighbors house. You shall not covet your neighbors wife…[or anything else]” (NIV).
For the most part, happy people tend to have very high levels of self-esteem. They accept who they are and own it every day. They give off an heir of confidence and send out a positive vibe. There is really no reason to be insecure in life. If there are things you are self-conscious about, go out and do what you can to change them. Only you, with the help of the Holy Spirit, have the ability to create the best you possible.
Ephesians 6:10a, “Be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might” (ESV).
Galatians 2:20, “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me” (ESV).
15. Depending on Others for Your Happiness
Ultimately, the only person (human) you can truly count on is yourself. Do not make the mistake a lot of people do and place your happiness in the hands of others. A relationship is not going to fulfill the void if you are unable to make yourself happy. You need to achieve happiness and contentment on your own before you can find others to share it with. This is absolutely necessary to becoming self-sufficient. There is, of course, One who you can lean on for help in finding happiness.
Proverbs 15:13, “A glad heart makes a cheerful face, but by sorrows of the heart the spirit is crushed” (ESV, emphasis mine).
Philippians 4:13, “I can do all things through him [Christ] who strengthens me” (ESV).
16. The Past
Stop living in the past! There is nothing to be gained if you swim in the lake of mistakes you have made. Take past mistakes as lessons learned, and move on. You cannot completely move on to a better future if you keep looking behind you. Things happened, and that’s all there is to it. At times life can bite; move past it.
2 Corinthians 5:17, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation, the old has passed away; behold the new has come” (ESV).
Isaiah 43:18, “Remember not the former things, nor consider the things of old. Behold, I am doing a new thing;” (ESV).
Sometimes you just need to let life flow along the way it was meant to. You cannot spend your life stressing out about things that are beyond your control. Try to relax and let things happen naturally. Embrace the unknown as this is where surprise, growth and learning reside. Let yourself be excited by unknown occurrences, and enjoy the excitement they bring. Life, and the world, are under the Lord’s providential care, not yours.
Proverbs 19:21, “Many are the plans in the mind of man, but it is the purpose of the Lord that will stand” (ESV).
1 Corinthians 6:19-20, “Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, who you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price…” (ESV, emphasis mine).
Managing your expectations is a major key to happiness. If you let go of expectations, then you cannot be disappointed. Do not expect any particular results from any given situation. Go into things with an open mind. This will allow you to give it your full attention without the pressure of living up to any preconceived ideas.
Proverbs 16:9, “The heart of a man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps” (ESV).
Proverbs 14:12, “There is a way which seems right to a man, But its end is the way of death” (NASB).
True and complete joy can be found only in the Lord, but there is nothing wrong with taking steps to try and make one’s life happier.
This list may seem simplistic, but as I am sure you know, trying to live out these steps is very difficult in this fallen world. Do what you can to be happy, but never lose your eternal focus and your absolute dependence on Christ.