St. Paul shared with the early Christians his secret of being happy in the Lord in all circumstances. Let us learn from his epistles his secret to happiness.
In his letter to the Philippians he said: “Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.
I rejoiced greatly in the Lord that at last you renewed your concern for me. Indeed, you were concerned, but you had no opportunity to show it. I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength. “(Phil 4:4-13)
The Apostle told the Philippians to rejoice in the Lord at all times because true happiness is spiritual and can only come from the Lord. He repeats the exhortation to show his earnestness and that it is God’s will that it should be done. Gentleness or sweetness of temper is a result of joy in the Lord and should be shown to all men. Christians should not be overly anxious in the face of trials and tribulations but should take everything to the Lord in prayer, and Christ Jesus will give them the peace which the world cannot give (John14:27). However, this presupposes a good prayer life and a personal relationship with Christ.
St. Paul by pursuing the course of life which he had led, and which he here counsels the Philippians to follow, had found that it had been attended with the blessing of the God of peace, and he felt the fullest assurance that the same blessing would rest on them if they imitated his example. The way to obtain the blessing of the God of peace is to lead a holy life, and to perform with faithfulness all the duties which we owe to God and to our fellow-men.
A contented mind is an invaluable blessing, and is one of the fruits of religion in the soul (see Heb 13:5; 1 Tim 6:6-8). It arises from the belief that God is right in all his ways. Why should we be impatient, restless, and discontented? (see Lam 3:26) What evil will be remedied by it? What want supplied? What calamity removed? “He that is of a merry heart hath a continual feast” Proverbs 15:15; and one of the secrets of happiness is to have a mind satisfied with all the allotments of Providence.
Trials, temptations, poverty, want, persecution, may await us; but we need not sink into despondency. At every step of life, Christ is able to strengthen us, and can bring us triumphantly through. What a privilege it is, therefore, to be a Christian – to feel, in the trials of life, that we have one friend, unchanging and most mighty, who can always help us! How cheerfully should we engage in our duties, and meet the trials that are before us, leaning on the arm of our Almighty Redeemer! Let us not shrink from duty; let us not dread persecution; let us not fear the bed of death. In all circumstances, Christ, our unchanging Friend, can uphold us. Let the eye and the affections of the heart be fixed on him; let the simple, fervent, believing prayer be directed always to him when trials come, when temptations assail, when duty presses hard upon us, and when a crowd of unholy and forbidden thoughts rush into our mind: and we shall be safe.
St. Paul taught the Romans: “Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer.” (Romans 12:12) Each of these exercises helps the other. If our “hope” of glory (see Heb 3:6) is so assured that it is a rejoicing hope, we shall find the spirit of “endurance in tribulation” natural and easy; but since it is “prayer” which strengthens the faith that begets hope and lifts it up into an assured and joyful expectancy, and since our patience in tribulation is fed by this, it will be seen that all depends on our “perseverance in prayer.”
What we can learn from the epistles of St. Paul is that happiness and joy are spiritual gifts from God. A prerequisite of happiness and joy is peace, which is a blessing from God for those who lead a holy life and have a personal relationship with Christ Jesus through constant prayer.
Here is the story behind the hymn “What a Friend we have in Jesus”. It is an inspiring story which demonstrates the power of prayer and a deep relationship with Jesus in times of trials and tribulations.