“For whoever desires to love life and see good days, let him keep his tongue from evil and his lips from speaking deceit; let him turn away from evil and do good; let him seek peace and pursue it. For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous and his ears are open to their prayer. But the face of the Lord is against those who do evil.” II Peter 3:10-12
“I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.” John 10:10
“Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.” James 1:17
The common thread in these verses and others in the Bible is that God’s plan and intention for us is that we have a good life – a happy and fulfilled life. Sometimes this promise challenges our faith because life for us at the moment may not seem to be all that great. And then, we struggle at times because our idea of what a good life looks like and God’s knowledge of what a good life really is don’t line up exactly.
The good life he has in mind for us does not necessarily include wealth, popularity, or even good health, although they may be part of the blessings he bestows on us. After all, Jesus himself said, “all people will hate you for my name’s sake (Luke 21:17).” And when the Lord mentions some of his favorite people in Hebrews 11, he says, “Others suffered mocking and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment. They were stoned, they were sawn in two, they were killed with the sword. They went about in skins of sheep and goats, destitute, afflicted, mistreated — of whom the world was not worthy — wandering about in deserts and mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth (Hebrews 11:36-38).”
How can both of these ideas be true? How can we live a good life that does not depend on the circumstances of that life? Both in the Bible and in our own experience, we find that wealth, popularity, and physical well-being do not equal a good life. There are too many examples in our own lives of people around us who possess all of those things while remaining the most miserable people on earth. Conversely, it’s easy to find those who have nothing, as far as we can see, but who are genuinely happy and content.
There is a lifestyle taught by the Lord, however, that leads to happiness and good days no matter what we do or don’t have. Here are at least some of the elements of it:
“I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me (Philippians 4:12-13).”
“Now there is great gain in godliness with contentment, for we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world. But if we have food and clothing, with these we will be content. But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction (I Timothy 6:6-9).”
“Keep your life free from the love of money, and be content with what you have, for he has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you (Hebrews 13:5-6).
“…let him seek peace and pursue it (I Peter 3:11).”
“If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all (Romans 12:18).”
95 times or more in the New Testament alone, peace is mentioned and encouraged. Much of the conflict in our lives – in relationships, at work, in the church – are only exacerbated because we do not take it upon ourselves to become peacemakers. How much less stressful would your life be, and how much happier could you be if, at least for your part, you sought to be at peace with everyone?
“There is nothing better for a person than that he should eat and drink and find enjoyment in his toil (Ecclesiastes 2:24).”
“…aspire to live quietly and to mind your own affairs, and to work with your hands, as we instructed you, so that you may…be dependent on no one (I Thessalonians 4:11).”
Those who embrace their work rather than constantly scheming to avoid it know something about the secret of a good life.
“I do not cease to give thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers, that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you a spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him, having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints (Ephesians 1:16-18).”
“If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied (I Corinthians 15:19).”
People without hope are people with nothing. It’s impossible to know happiness and contentment without it. And so, God gives us something wonderful to look forward to – something that exists and is yours beyond time, beyond destruction, and beyond the unfairness and injustice of this world. We can be happy living in these days by living for those days that are to come.