Perhaps you have heard the saying, "If you are happy, you are not paying attention"? Look at the world around us. Billions of people are living in abject poverty. Starvation, disease and violence are bringing countless lives to a premature end. Millions are jobless, unable to provide for their families. Many more are stuck in low-paying, unfulfilling jobs, struggling under crushing debt. Hard-working people who have saved for decades are watching their life's savings dwindle away. Economic stress adds to pressure on relationships, while millions endure unhappy marriages or experience painful conflicts between parents and children. If you are unhappy, you are certainly not alone. As we see so much unnecessary pain in the lives of people we care about, can we think of three good reasons to be unhappy?
Bible students know that God praises those who "sigh and cry" over the abominations around them (Ezekiel 9:4). And we certainly have much to sigh and cry about. Yes, there is a time to mourn (Matthew 5:4; Ecclesiastes 3:4). We know that war, disease, starvation and suffering will only increase as we approach the end of this age. So, facing these sad realities, how does Scripture advise us to react? The answer may surprise you:
"Rejoice in the Lord always. Again I will say, rejoice!" (Philippians 4:4).
Is that an unrealistic platitude? Was the Apostle Paul telling us to smile at everything that is wrong with our world? Not at all! Scripture even praises a sober countenance over a false or shallow display of mirth (Ecclesiastes 7:3). But while we sigh and cry about our suffering world, we can still rejoice in the Lord. Remember: "He who heeds the word wisely will find good, and whoever trusts in the LORD, happy is he" (Proverbs 16:20).
Are you unhappy because you have been treated unjustly? Jesus Christ set the example of suffering unjustly. How did He respond to injustice? Not only did He sacrifice Himself for those who treated Him unjustly, He even asked His Father to forgive them (Luke 23:34). Unlike Christ, you and I usually deserve at least some of the suffering we experience. But how should we respond to unjust suffering? Notice what the Apostle Peter wrote "For what credit is it if, when you are beaten for your faults, you take it patiently? But when you do good and suffer, if you take it patiently, this is commendable before God" (1 Peter 2:20).
Are you unhappy because of some setback you have suffered? Scripture reminds us, "Beloved, do not think it strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened to you; but rejoice to the extent that you partake of Christ's sufferings, that when His glory is revealed, you may also be glad with exceeding joy" (1 Peter 4:12–13). Instead of making us unhappy, our suffering should remind us of Christ's far greater suffering, because of which we will soon be able to experience an eternity of joy!
Certainly, we should be sobered by the pain and heartache around us. We should empathize with those who are hurting. We should hunger for the end of human suffering, and we should fervently pray, "Your Kingdom come" (Matthew 6:10). But if God has opened your mind to His truth, you know that He does have a plan for our troubled world – a plan that gives meaning to our lives even in the times of deepest sorrow, and that will bring joy, happiness, peace and profound fulfillment to everyone who surrenders to God and lives His way through the help of the Holy Spirit.
So, can we come up with three good reasons to be unhappy? No! In fact, when we look at the "big picture" as Christians, there is not even one good reason! To learn more about how God and His Truth can console us in times of suffering, please read our article, "Comfort in Times of Tragedy." Or read our article, "Your Incredible Future," which outlines the wonderful destiny ahead for those who accept Jesus Christ's sacrifice and strive to obey Him. God wants each of us to be happy – but we cannot be truly happy without Him!