4 Habits of the Happy Heart

Today’s happiness is not promised, and it refuses to be assumed.

True happiness—the kind that really anchors, satisfies, inspires and lasts—is not something to be taken for granted. It’s not a reasonable, predictable, effortless expectation, not even heading into the freedom and rest of the weekend. Happiness can be very hard work. If you’re honest, I really don’t have to convince you of that. You’ve tasted too many Mondays, too many Thursdays, even too many Fridays.

The reasons happiness is so regularly elusive are the hurdles in our hearts—the sin that still remains, still deceives and still wars against what’s best for us. It creeps into our lives in creative and destructive ways with murderous lies, some conspicuous and outrageous, others subtle and compelling.

Psalm 130 puts words to a pattern of conviction, repentance, waiting and praise that purifies the sinner and glorifies the Savior. It’s a paradigm for pursuing happiness among the everyday realities of temptation, weakness, brokenness and failure.

The Weeping

Out of the depths I cry to you, O Lord! O Lord, hear my voice! Let your ears be attentive to the voice of my pleas for mercy! If you, O Lord, should mark iniquities, O Lord, who could stand? (Psalm 130:1-3)

Guilt is an awful and appropriate affection for the human heart. We have all experienced death (Ephesians 2:1). We all begin with God there—no exceptions, no excuses, no hope. But God. By grace, we’re rescued from hell, restored through faith and made new in Christ.

Still, even after the miracle of our resurrection—made alive with Christ, raised with him, seated with him right now (Ephesians 2:5-6)—we’re called to war every day against whatever’s left of our old selves. Grief over our sin is good and godly as long as it longs for more of God and more of his likeness in us. There is a guilt—a weeping—that leads us to God, not away from him, to his means of restoration, not away into isolation. We’re all damned by our own doing, but God’s mercy can triumph over every evil and welcome us home to himself.

The Welcome

But with you there is forgiveness, that you may be feared. (Psalm 130:4)

We are welcomed home by the unfailing forgiveness of an otherwise terrifying Father. He is horrifying. That is, without the refuge we find in Jesus. If we don’t know him as infinitely holy, powerful and just, we’ll never weep and we’ll never know the fullness and sweetness of his forgiveness.

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Marshall Segal (@MarshallSegal) is a writer and managing editor at desiringGod.org. He’s the author of Not Yet Married: The Pursuit of Joy in Singleness & Dating (2017). He graduated from Bethlehem College & Seminary. He and his wife Faye live in Minneapolis.