Response: July/August 2015 Issue

Created for Happiness

The world’s happiness has nothing on the happiness found in God.

Created for Happiness
Judith Pierre-Okerson shares a laugh with fellow directors at the 2012 United Methodist Women Board of Directors meeting in Plano, Texas.

Rejoice in the Lord, always: and again I say, Rejoice! — Philippians 4:4 (KJV)

I was not gifted with a melodious voice. I can barely hold a note, but I love to sing. One of my favorite verses from childhood is from a song I learned in Girl's Brigade in Haiti:

Quoi qu'il m'arrive j'ai toujours le sourire
Je prends la vie l'ennui du bon cote
Car je me suis dit qu'il peut m'arriver pire,
Cela suffit pour me mettre en gaite.

The verse can be translated as: "Whatever happens to me, I keep smiling. I take life's trouble well. For I said to myself the worst could have happened to me, this is enough to make me happy."

Singing those lines Saturday after Saturday provided me both a sense of confidence and a great level of comfort as a little girl. Whenever I was confronted with a difficult situation, whether it was because things did not go my way or because there was a real crisis in my family, I would mumble those lines and would know everything would be OK. This thought was enough to make me forget about my troubles and restore my happiness. As I grew older I unconsciously replaced that song with Philippians 4:4: "Rejoice in the Lord, always: and again I say, Rejoice!" to comfort me in time of trouble in my life.

As with most of my childhood songs, the complete words from this one has faded from my memory as I've grown older. As best I can recall, there is nothing theological about this song. There is no mention of God or Jesus. I cannot help but ask myself why those childhood words resurface while I am reflecting on deep theological questions. They pop up when I wonder, "How do I understand my life in God?" or "How do I understand — in spite of all the troubles and complications life can throw at me, in spite of injustices, in spite of natural and human-made disasters — that God did create me and every human being to be happy in this life and the life to come?" The response to my questions is as simple as the chorus itself: Trust.

Understanding my life in God

As a child I knew I could trust my father to provide whatever I needed (and most of what I wanted). To this day, my sibling still refers to me as "Daddy's little girl," even though my father transitioned from this world 14 years ago. When I attempt to explain my understanding of my life in God, I echo the words of the hymn "Through It All" by Andraé Crouch: "Through it all, I've learned to trust in Jesus, I've learned to trust in God." Just like I could trust my daddy growing up, I trust God because I've experienced God's love for me over and over. So when life's circumstances come my way, I say to myself: I have no reason to be worried for God is in control of my life. Through it all, I've learned to depend on God's word.

"Don't fret or worry. Instead of worrying, pray. Let petitions and praises shape your worries into prayers, letting God know your concerns. Before you know it, a sense of God's wholeness, everything coming together for good, will come and settle you down. It's wonderful what happens when Christ displaces worry at the center of your life," says Philippians 4:6-7 (The Message). So when I surrender my worries to God I experience God's wholeness and feel blessed. My happiness comes from a sense of God's wholeness settling me down.

God created humankind to be happy

God created me and all human beings for a life of happiness. In the secular world, happiness tends to be associated with temporary life situations. As a Christian, I know I can be happy in Christ beyond life's circumstances.

As I read the Bible through the lenses of different translations, I have found that the word "happiness" is often equivalent to "blessing." For example, we read in Psalm 144: "Happy are the people whose God is the Lord" (verse 15, NRSV) while other versions read "Blessed are the people." God's desire is for us to be blessed and to be a blessing for others. God created us to be in relationship with others and with God.

"I'm absolutely convinced that nothing — nothing living or dead, angelic or demonic, today or tomorrow, high or low, thinkable or unthinkable — absolutely nothing can get between us and God's love because of the way that Jesus our Master has embraced us" (Romans 8:38-39, The Message).

Those two verses translate the depth of God's desire to be in relationship with us. When I surrender all my worries and everything else to God's will and concentrate on my relationship with Christ, a relationship based on trust and obedience, I feel blessed.

Trusting God totally and obeying God's mandates bring me into a right relationship with God and helps me understand that my happiness in this world is intertwined with my walk with the Living Savior, Jesus Christ. Therefore, I can testify with confidence that I am happy in spite of life's troubles not because I think "the worst could have happened to me" like I used to sing as a child but rather because I am a blessed child of God.

Judith Pierre-Okerson is a director on the United Methodist Women Board of Directors from the Florida Conference and chair of its committee on governance.

Posted or updated: 6/25/2015 11:00:00 PM

July-August 2015 cover of response


Additional information:

Created for Happiness: Understanding Your Life in God
This study take us on a journey to allow us to join Judith Pierre-Okerson in singing praises for the happiness in our lives.