We love to make our kids happy. Nothing can replace the feeling we get when they smile and say, “Thank you Mommy, that was the best Christmas ever.” Whatever it takes—from candy to tablets to trips overseas—if we can, we buy it. When they’re happy, we’re happy.
As they get older, our culture teaches them what it thinks will bring them happiness. Some of our children pick up the message of clothes, body image, sexual experience, and the latest technology. For others, it’s having high grades, being at the top of their game, attending a good school and getting a high salary job. But does what they accomplish or buy make them happy?
Recently a prestigious university offered a class called “Psychology and the Good Life.” One-fourth of the student body enrolled, making it the most popular course in the school’s 300-year history.1
The professor wants to teach students how to lead a happier, more satisfying life. Students think that high grades, the right internship, and a good-paying job will satisfy them. But the professor believes these things do not increase happiness at all. Would more than half of undergraduates seek mental health care if their accomplishments could make them happy?
One student said, “A lot of us are anxious, stressed, unhappy, numb. The fact that a class like this has such large interest speaks to how tired students are of numbing their emotions . . . so they can focus on their work, the next step, the next accomplishment.”
These students have experienced the truth of human existence: we cannot achieve lasting happiness through what we do or have. Lasting happiness comes through what God has done for us. He has given the greatest gift, His Son. The Bible points us to Jesus, the One who imparts lasting satisfying happiness.
Anna was part of God’s plan for Christmas. Her script in Luke 2:36–38 tells us she understood true happiness. After becoming a widow, Anna “did not depart from the temple, worshiping with fasting and prayer night and day.” God graciously blessed Anna. She was one of the first to see Jesus—the One for whom she had prayed so long. The Redeemer had come! Anna eagerly shared this amazing news with all who anticipated God’s promised King—Jesus.
Anna’s life tells us these truths about happiness:
Jesus came to give his life to us—true happiness comes when we give our life to Jesus.
Anna was very old. She was not successful in the eyes of the world. Without a husband, family, or earthly possessions, Anna lacked basic control over her life. Yet Anna knew God, so she could know happiness. She knew that God is in charge and He is good. Anna gladly gave herself to God. She believed His promise to send Jesus and prayed for Him to come and bless the world. Anna knew God’s plan for her life was good. She did not demand her way; she gladly gave herself to God.
From early on, our goals in life are to know ourselves and have fun. Surely it is not wrong to want to achieve our full potential! But the truth is, God made us to love Him. Christmas tells us that Jesus came to give His life to us so we can be friends with God forever. Our lives will never be right until we give our lives to Jesus. When we try to live for ourselves, it’s like driving a bumper car on the freeway—it doesn’t work.
We were made for God. Life with Him is truly happy. God’s purpose for our lives reveals the smallness of our dreams. God created us to know Him, love Him and glorify Him. Success in our family life, a job, and friendships are important, but they will never make us truly happy. Jesus came to give His life to us. Now we can give our lives to Him: our hands, feet, eyes, tongue, mind, and heart.
Jesus came to give his life for us—true happiness comes when we give our life for Jesus.
Anna knew that living with God meant doing whatever He wanted, even when it meant changing her plans, even if it wasn’t fun, and even when no one else was watching! As we put aside even good desires to trust God’s will, Jesus is with us, and we find true happiness (Matt. 11:29–30; Phil. 3:7–10; 1 Peter 1:6–9).
Children ask their parents, “What will I get for Christmas?” This translates to, “Mom and Dad, what will you give up to make me happy?” Every honest adult admits to this same thought, “What will you give up so I can get what I want?” But Christmas tells us that Jesus came to give His life for us. For Jesus, the cross meant He followed His Father’s will even to death (Phil. 2:6–8). He died, not for His own sins, but to save us from ours. Jesus entered the pain of the cross, knowing there would be eternal happiness ahead (Heb. 12:2).
What God wants is so much better than what we think we want: Loving people who are difficult to love. Doing the right thing even when it is hard. Being generous, kind, patient, and forgiving—these things please and glorify God because they express His character. Jesus came to give His life for us. Now we can give our lives, whatever the cost, for Jesus.
Only Jesus can give you real happiness that lasts forever.
True happiness is not an event or a feeling. True happiness is a Person—the Lord Jesus Christ. Christmas gifts and vacations are fun. We enjoy and thank God for the good things He gives us. But the excitement of gifts fades. Every vacation comes to an end. God, the Giver of every good gift, gives us these things to turn our hearts to Him. Only the joy of Jesus lasts forever.
1 David Shimer. "Yale’s Most Popular Class Ever: Happiness." New York Times, Jan. 26, 2018.