Maybe you could even rephrase this question as “what is happiness” or even “what is the meaning of life”? Heavy stuff but yet we all ask questions like these especially as we grow older. As Christians, we want to live in Christ and not merely exist for we are more than just created by God; we are redeemed in Christ. It is this second life, being born again, that carries with it the question “what makes life worth living”? The Japanese have a word for it: ikigai, meaning “that which makes life worth living”. We could simply answer “Christ”; yes, “to live is Christ” (Phil. 1:21a). Yet, I’d like to offer a few more specific things I’ve gathered over the years in Christ and leave time for your wisdom, too.
1. Read Matthew 6:34
A recent .com poll said that 33 was the ideal age for happiness. The rationale was that by then one is usually established in career and relationships but that one still has a great deal of the future to look forward toward- house, children, etc. That is one key to happiness- looking optimistically toward the future, whatever your age. Wanting to seize upon the opportunities that life has to offer each new day is a great reason to get out of bed. Yogi Berra said, “The future’s not what it used to be.” Interesting twist on how many in the world see the future. Bleak. But to those redeemed in Christ, our future glory is certain and our time remaining until Heaven while yet on earth is without fear.
2. Read Romans 8:1
Shoulda-coulda-woulda. This is the death knell of happiness and robs life of fullness. Another word to sum it up is regret. If we hold onto the past clinging to our sins and mistakes, we aren’t giving Christ His due who has forgiven us our sins by His death on the cross and who renews us daily in His Spirit to live worthwhile lives seeking first His Kingdom. Everyone has things that they wish they could redo but we can’t go into the past. Rather we live in the moment by the promises of God’s Word believing He is with us even as we look to tomorrow where He awaits.
3. Read 1 Corinthians 13:1-3
Without love, life has no meaning. Vital to a life well lived is love. The world only knows self-love but this is not the love of which God’s people speak. Faith in God would be as empty as life for God is love. Thus it is the love of God and the love of neighbor (the purpose of the Law by the way Matthew 22:34-40) that we speak. One challenge to love is the meaning of neighbor. Neighborhoods don’t hold the same intimacy as they once did. So let us say “family and friends”. Yes we are to love everyone but in reality we can hide behind this with our 100,000 Facebook friends whom we never met. People need real relationships to be happy and love is the glue the binds the two. In marriage, this love makes for one flesh even. Family and friends can become interchangeable in the Church where our relationships grow through Christian obedience (John 13:34, 35; 14:15). Having a healthy family dynamic- whether at home or in church- is essential to a happy, meaningfully lived life (Psalm 133:1).
4. Read Ecclesiastes 3:4
Knowing the difference between when it is time to weep and when it is time to laugh is another key to a joyful life. Yes, even weeping and mourning can enrich life if appropriately done. They bring depth to life and are means to deal with loss. But don’t be a cry-baby. Don’t whine about your life all the time. You are redeemed in Christ as a new creation. Let laughter season your life. Humor is good medicine. David danced in glee before the Lord. Truly, a cheerful disposition will go far to make life worth the living.
And 5. Read Genesis 1 (later)
God is a mover; He’s a shaker. God is the Creator and He created us in His image which means some of that movement has been passed on to us. It is in the nature of man to make things as well as study how things work. Don’t deny your creative impulses. It would be to deny your God-given humanity. Find something you enjoy making- cookies, paintings, pots, novels, music, poems, embroidery, blankets, gardens, whatever. As you discover the talents God has given you, making things will become a passion in life. Better still, make them to the glory of God and to the delight of those to whom you give them as gifts.
Now make your own list and go for it.