Social scientists have discovered that we can’t afford to be happy. Ron Kotulak and Jon Van learned this after doing research into the relationship between wealth and happiness. The information came from 39 countries, and it was published in the journal Social Indicators Research. Kotulak and Van concluded, “Neither increasing income at the individual level nor country level [was] accompanied by increases in subjective well-being.” In other words, the more money people made, the more they wanted. They never had enough to become happy. The researchers also found that quick gains in wealth caused less, not more, happiness.

Had they checked their Bibles first, Ron and Jon would have saved themselves a lot of time and money and reached the same conclusion. The Bible says, “My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations; Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience.” (James 1:2–3) Happiness comes from looking at external things such as possessions and good circumstances. (The problem is, when the money and good times run out, then we’ve lost our happiness.) Joy is a choice we make to look past external things — good or bad — to God.

We can have joy whether we’ve just entered a trial, or we just made it through one. We can have joy whether our pockets are full of money, or they are empty. No matter the circumstance, all we have to do is look up.

It’s easy to look up when things are going well. But maybe hard times are tempting you to hang your head: A family member has a brain tumor. You can’t pay for your rent. You just lost your job. You lost a great deal of money. You’ve made bad decisions. Stress at work is wearing you down. When you don’t feel happy, choose to look up to God. His joy will be your strength.

Devotional by Dr. James A. Scudder