“Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace” (Isaiah 26:3). Who does not desire such an experience: the perfect peace of God Himself filling our hearts and minds? It is there for every child of God who wants it, yet many are often unhappy and do not have the peace they desire because they are neglecting three simple tools: trust, prayer, and thanksgiving.
Our failure to believe that God’s way is always best makes it hard to fully yield to Him and trust Him with all our heart. When Satan talked Eve into believing that God was withholding something good from her, she began to distrust God. He had told Adam that if they ate the forbidden fruit they would die (Genesis 2:17). But Eve relied on her own judgment instead of yielding to God’s. What unhappiness she plunged herself into!
Today this is still the root cause of all the unhappiness in the world. Keep this fact clearly in mind: if we want happiness and peace we must stop thinking we know better than God what will make us happy. Isaiah 26:3 tells us the Lord will keep us in perfect peace if we keep our minds on Him and keep trusting Him. Why let our thoughts run wild with anxious fear? The Lord has all things under control. He is, after all, the One who is above all and able to change all; and He wants to do what is for our greatest good. If we trust Him completely and keep our thoughts on Him, we will have peace of heart and mind.
Notice in the Psalms how often David talked to himself about God’s care for him when he was cast down and harassed with fears. “What time I am afraid, I will trust in Thee…. In God I have put my trust” (Psalm 56:3,4;see also Psalm 42:11; 116:7). We can never go wrong if we follow David’s simple method of exhorting our own souls to trust God. We need to learn these verses and repeat them over and over again. Doing this will help to keep our minds fixed on the Lord instead of on our feelings or circumstances.
Provision of Prayer
Prayer is a wonderful provision of God to ease our burdens, tensions and fears, and restore peace to our hearts and minds. The value of prayer as a vital factor in a life of peace and happiness can never be overestimated. “Be [anxious] for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:6-7.)
When we speak of the relationship of prayer to happiness, we are not talking about a few minutes spent each day repeating a stereotyped form of petition. Scriptural prayer is pouring out our hearts to God. How can we do this effectively?
When praying, we should think of who He is and of His infinite power, wisdom, and ability to understand and solve our problems. We should also be conscious of our relationship with Him: He has made us His children; He is our Father. As our Father, He has a very personal interest in us and our problems—more than any earthly father ever could. If He gave up His dear Son to die on the cross for us, we can be sure He is ready to give all that we need for our good. The Lord Jesus said: “If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your Father which is in heaven give good things to them that ask Him?” (Matthew 7:11).
Tell Him what our problems are as honestly as we can. So often, when we don’t really understand our problems, the very act of putting them into words gives us a clearer picture of them. Then too, telling our Father about them gives Him an opportunity to give us a clearer picture of what our real need is. Confidently expect that, because of His personal interest in us, He will lead us into the right solution, or solve our problems through divine intervention at the right time.
The invitation to bring our requests to God—“in every thing by prayer and supplication”—does not necessarily mean long hours spent on our knees pouring out our hearts in prayer. While quiet times are important, we cannot overstress the importance of constantly talking to God about everything during our daily activities. This is what the Bible means when it says “pray without ceasing” and “praying always” (1 Thessalonians 5:17; Ephesians 6:18). Habitually referring everything to our Father in the midst of our daily routine keeps us in touch with Him so that His peace can keep our hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.
Value of Thanksgiving
If we are sad and depressed, we need to try thanksgiving. If we are discouraged and feel like complaining, we must try praise. God tells us in His Word that we should be found “giving thanks always for all things unto God and the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Ephesians 5:20).
The prophet Jeremiah was greatly depressed as he listed many things that weighed him down: “He hath set me in dark places…. He hath hedged me about, that I cannot get out…. He hath made my paths crooked.” In all, he named some thirty complaints about his desperate circumstances, ending on this sad note: “My strength and my hope is perished from the Lord” (Lamentations 3:6,7,9,18).
He felt as though he was hopelessly sinking under his burdens. But then his thoughts suddenly turned to God and he broke out with another thought altogether: “This I recall to my mind, therefore have I hope. It is of the Lord’s mercies that we are not consumed, because His compassions fail not. They are new every morning: great is Thy faithfulness. The Lord is my portion, saith my soul; therefore will I hope in Him” (Lamentations 3:21-24). What a change! And that’s always the way it is when we turn to God in our troubles. We find there is so much to thank Him for.
We should take all our sorrows to the Lord, but we should never leave His presence without thanking Him for all our blessings. This will surely turn our complaining into praise, and our depression into rejoicing. Paul made no mistake when He wrote, “In everything give thanks.” He knew what was needed to lift us up. The unconverted have nothing to fall back on in times of trouble. But we have the eternal God with unlimited resources who takes a personal interest in us.
How sad to see so many confused and burdened Christians disregarding the Lord’s gracious offer: “Come unto Me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28). How grateful we should be, knowing that He will sustain us when we come to Him with all our burdens. We should even thank Him for our troubles, since they bring us closer to Christ and are stepping stones to greater intimacy with God (see 2 Corinthians 12:7-10).
Some of us bring our burdens to the Lord, but are still weighed down with them, because we do not heed the Lord’s simple instructions to give thanks in everything. If we did this every time we talked over our troubles with the Lord, we would find our souls uplifted by the awareness of our many blessings. We remain preoccupied with our troubles, when instead we should go on our way rejoicing because we have a loving Father who never fails His children. Praise and thanks work wonders.
Jesus Our Example
If the Lord Jesus exhorts us to give thanks in every situation, He is not asking us to do something He Himself did not do. We should never forget that He was tested in every point just as we are. When He was tested by that unrepentant generation, even after all His labors of love and mighty miracles, notice how He reacted: “I thank Thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth … for so it seemed good in Thy sight” (Matthew 11:25,26). And in Luke 10:21, where the same incident is given, we find it also recorded that “Jesus rejoiced in spirit.”
The Lord found peace in the midst of trials by submitting to them and thanking His Father for them. We will find peace too if we do likewise. There is no other way. We cannot get peace by worrying or complaining. The more we yield our will to His, the more we will find the peace and joy of Christ in our souls.
—Condensed from “You Can Have a Happy Life” by E.C. Hadley.