The world is always looking for the secret to happiness. People search and spend their whole lives on the mission for something that will give them lasting, long term happiness. They look to money, sex, popularity and many other things for this sense of completion. Christians have already known the secret though. We were given the answer long ago, and the Heidelberg Catechism, Lord’s Day 1 Q&A 2 tells us simply and beautifully.
Q: How many things are necessary for thee to know, that thou, enjoying this comfort (see Q&A 1), mayest live and die happily?
A: Three. The first, how great my sins and miseries are; the second, how I may be delivered from all my sins and miseries; the third, how I shall express my gratitude to God for such deliverance.
This question and answer at first glance seems a little odd. The secret to happiness revolves around us contemplating our sin and misery? Once you try it, though, you’ll find it’s very true. Recognizing these three things can and will drastically change your outlook on life, put your priorities back in order, and yes, give you lasting happiness by the grace of God.
The first part of the question on its own certainly will not give happiness. When we think of our sins and miseries we feel humbled, embarrassed, maybe even depressed. However, looking our sin square in the face and seeing it for the atrocity that it is, that is what makes this secret to happiness work. Salvation would not seem so miraculous if we didn’t recognize the truth of total depravity. We have to see the immense, vile load of our sin before the next portions of the answer can bring us with joy to the cross.
The second part is where we start to feel some true joy. Those horrible sins we just talked about are given a pardon! We see in this part of the answer that there is hope for us! We won’t be left alone to wallow in our misery. We lift our bowed heads and see the cross and start to feel the burden of sin fall from our shoulders. However, we can’t stop here.
The third part takes this power of joy and sets it loose, releases the happiness in terms of thanksgiving. It always appears to me as if the second portion of the answer created so much joy, we can’t keep it bottled inside any longer. We burst into anthems of thanksgiving, joy, and praise for our salvation. We have to recognize what we should do as a result of our salvation. Our church attendance, prayers, and all-around Christian lifestyles aren’t in order to gain salvation; they’re the result of intense thankfulness for our salvation.
Now, just because we know the secret to lasting happiness doesn’t mean it’s truly a secret. Going out into the world and telling others about this fountain of joy is part of what we may do to express our gratitude to God. So, this Lord’s Day (and all week) I encourage us all to not go through the motions of church going, Bible reading, praying or anything else, but to do each of these things with a conscious knowledge that we are expressing gratitude to God for an incredible, and awe-inspiring work of salvation in our lives. Then, when this life brings you down this week, and you need to rediscover your happiness, read over this question and answer, and you’ll surely find true joy.