Officially, Finland is the “happiest” country in the world. The US and UK are 18th and 19th respectively, while Burundi languishes in 156th (last) place. This is the conclusion of the World Happiness Report 2018 which gathered data from countries around the world. Facts such as economic output per individual, healthy life expectancy, freedom to make choices, generosity and perceptions of corruption are measured.
The counsel of the ungodly would seem to endorse the view that “happiness depends on happenstances”. For example, if you happen to be born in Finland, you are likely to be happy; whereas were you born in Burundi, you are likely to experience reduced happiness. “Health, wealth and happiness” are thought to be interdependent, and are sometimes even held out by preachers purporting to be “Evangelical Christians” as the trinity to be pursued. Yet it must be obvious that health will decline as we age, and wealth is subject to economic factors outwith our control. The wind comes and blows the chaff away.
Biblical blessedness is a happiness beyond our happenings. It is a delight in the secure and unchangeable law of the Lord. Paul did not write “Rejoice in the Lord always” (Philippians 4:4) from a beach sun-lounger but from a prison. When he said, “I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content” (Philippians 4:11), it is clear that, day and night, he meditated on the Lord. It is the antithesis of the sinful entertainment and scornful arrogance which dominate the ungodly agenda.
Lasting happiness is to be found in the most unexpected places: “poverty of spirit”, “mourning”, “meekness” are mentioned in Matthew 5. It is counter-cultural. Asaph was envious of the seeming prosperity (wealth and health) of the wicked, yet after he entered the sanctuary of God, he recognised that “My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever” (Psalm 73:26).
The certain prospect of “the Kingdom of Heaven”, “seeing God” and “receiving mercy” should fill us with real happiness, whether we live in Finland or Burundi. The contented believer is “like a tree planted by the rivers of water.”