Would you like the key to happiness? Is it money, fame, power, adoration?
Nope, none of those. But I can tell you what it is!
Does that sound too good to be true? It’s not! The key to happiness and quite a bit more is spelled out by the writer of Psalm 119.
I know what you are thinking… “that is a REALLY long Psalm!” It is long, but it is rich with truth. You will be happy to know, however, that we won’t go through the whole Psalm here.
I generally read the New International Version of the Bible, but one day I picked up a New Living Translation, (which is one of the easier reading versions) and began reading that Psalm. It came to life for me and it’s just too good not to share!
“Happy are people of integrity, who follow the law of the Lord.” (Ps. 119:1)
Simple, yet profound. The psalmist says the key to happiness has two parts; I am calling them the handle and the teeth.
The handle is integrity. Integrity is more than honesty, although that is an important factor. Integrity goes beyond verbal honesty to encompass your actions, the way you live. Someone with integrity lives their whole life and makes all their decisions based on a strong set of ethical principles and values.
That is where the second part of the key to happiness comes in, the teeth. That part of this key is the law of the Lord, which is the set of principles and values people of integrity are to follow.
The whole of Psalm 119 is really about the law of the Lord, and the power of the law of the Lord in our lives, and the impact the law of the Lord has when we follow it.
This very first verse tells us that those who follow the law of the Lord with integrity, using it as a guide for their decisions and actions — are happy! Now, the word “happy” in the Bible is oftentimes synonymous with the word “blessed”. So, when you see “happy” in some translations, it’s “blessed” in other translations. For example, verse 1 tells us that people who follow the law of the Lord with integrity are happy and blessed!
In verses 2 and 3 the psalmist expands on this key a bit, “Happy are those who obey His decrees and search for Him with all their hearts. They do not compromise with evil, and they walk only in His paths.” (Ps. 119: 2-3)
If we are following the law of the Lord with integrity, (the key to happiness) then we will earnestly want to know God so we can hear His voice and obey Him! There will be no compromise in our lives, because our decisions are drawn from the law of the Lord.
Think about times in your life that were filled with regret, stress, anxiety, even depression. Often, but not always, those feelings are a result of compromising with worldly, ungodly views and lifestyles.
For example, the Apostle Paul gives Christ followers very concrete guidelines to help them obey God’s decrees with no compromise (the key to happiness). In Romans 13:13 -14, he writes. “Let us behave decently, as in the daytime, not in carousing and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and debauchery, nor in dissension and jealousy. Rather, clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ, and do not think about how to gratify the desires of the flesh.”
How I wish I had hidden that word in my heart when I was a teenager. In my attempt to fit in with new friends after a move, I followed their lead, sneaking in to bars and drinking far too much. I grew up in a Christian home, so of course I had to lie to my parents about what I was doing. I knew that was not God’s way but I was willing to compromise with evil to gain friends. It seemed fun for a while, but I was quite miserable living a double life. When I finally repented of those sinful deeds, all the heaviness in my spirit lifted and peace, joy and happiness returned!
Compromising with evil is never worth the perceived benefit.
I am so thankful we have a gracious and forgiving God, who loves it when we come to Him and, like the psalmist, say “When I learn your righteous laws, I will thank you by living as I should. I will obey your principles. God, please don’t give up on me” (Ps 119:7-8) That should be our heart’s cry!
Not the Old Law
Now you may be thinking to yourself, “we are not under the old law anymore!” I agree, praise God we don’t live under that law with all the burdensome rituals and sacrifices. But in the New Testament, Matthew tells us a story of Jesus talking to the religious leaders and teachers of the law, about the law.
One of the teachers of the law asks Jesus which of the commandments is the greatest. Then Jesus replied, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself” (Matthew 22:37-39). Usually we stop there, but Jesus continues. He says, “All the Law and Prophets hang on these two commandments” (Matthew 22:40).
If you want to ponder the law; if you want to really grasp it, you have to remember it all revolves around love. So the key to happiness revolves around love. If you look at everything in the Old Testament, both the law and the prophets, you have to look at it all in the light of love. If you use the lens of love as you read it, you’ll understand more clearly, because it all hangs on love.
The Law of Love
Matthew 7:12 says, “Do for others as you would like you would have them do for you.” This is a summary of all that is taught in the law. There it is right there. Love. A summary of all that is taught in the law basically boils down to love. So, if we want to gain happiness by being people of integrity, who follow the law of the Lord, we must walk in love and walk out love!
When we focus on love, living it out day by day and working it out in our lives by serving God and serving others, we find true happiness!
A Simple Prayer
Here is a simple prayer you can pray:
Father, thank you that you are a God of love, and that in You I have true happiness. Thank you for loving me! Lord I ask you to teach me your ways of love, write the law of love on my heart so I might not sin against you. Father I praise you and ask your blessing on my life, that I would be happy by following your decree to love. In Jesus’ name. Amen.
Whetting Your Appetite
The rest of Psalm 119 tells of other blessings that come from following the law of the Lord, I encourage you to read the whole thing.
Just to whet your appetite, here are a few more.
- Verse 25 says, “When I lie in the dust completely discouraged; revive me by your word.” When we are discouraged, the word of God is an encouragement to us and revives us. So if you’re discouraged today. Go into the Word. Don’t necessarily talk to your friends or tell them all your troubles. God is the one who can revive us.
- In verse 35 the psalmist asks the Lord to, “Make me walk along the path of your commands, for that is where my happiness is found.” So when we don’t know how or have the strength to obey, we can ask God for help!
- Verse 54 says, “Your principles have been the music of my life throughout the years of my pilgrimage.” (v.54) This paints a picture of the intimacy we can have with God. Doesn’t it? When we think of music in our life, we think of romance and getting swept off our feet and bells going off. That’s what God wants. He wants us to have an intimate relationship with Him.
- Verse 79 says, “Let me be reconciled with all who fear you and know your decrees.” As I was looking at that, I thought, you know God, that is a promise for unity in the body and for reconciliation among believers. And that is something that we can claim and we can say God, let me be reconciled with all who fear you and know your decrees – across races, denominations, and generations!
I could go on, but I will stop for now! So, enjoy Psalm 119!
Dr. Jodie Chiricosta is vice president of Somebody Cares America/International. She teaches and consults on a variety of Christian living and leadership topics and is the host of the podcast Her God Story.