Finding Wisdom

13 Happy [is] the man [who] finds wisdom, And the man [who] gains understanding; 14 For her proceeds [are] better than the profits of silver, And her gain than fine gold. 15 She [is] more precious than rubies, And all the things you may desire cannot compare with her. 16 Length of days [is] in her right hand, In her left hand riches and honor. 17 Her ways [are] ways of pleasantness, And all her paths [are] peace. 18 She [is] a tree of life to those who take hold of her, And happy [are all] who retain her.
– Proverbs 3:13-18 NKJV

What Is Wisdom?

Psychology Today says about wisdom, ”Psychologists pretty much agree it involves an integration of knowledge, experience, and deep understanding that incorporates tolerance for the uncertainties of life as well as its ups and downs.

“Wise people generally share an optimism that life’s problems can be solved and experience a certain amount of calm in facing difficult decisions. Intelligence—if only anyone could figure out exactly what it is—may be necessary for wisdom, but it definitely isn’t sufficient; an ability to see the big picture, a sense of proportion, and considerable introspection also contribute to its development.”[1]

Our wisdom level is indicated by how we react to our life circumstances. Some circumstances highlight wisdom more than others.

  • Situations with unknown results (unsolved problems)
  • Situations with high emotion or high stakes
  • Situations that challenge personal beliefs and morals

Unwise behavior examples:

  • Waiting till all factors are known before deciding
  • Deciding before any factors are known
  • Panicked or completely emotion driven decisions
  • Basing decisions on results that are unreasonable or, at the least, are not guaranteed
  • Loss of perspective on the problem
  • Loss of self-awareness in difficult circumstances

Practical examples of what unwise behavior

  • I’ll keep off from serving others until I know for sure that I’ll be appreciated.
  • I have no clue what’s happening so I’m going to go with the first thing that pops into my head. Probably that means the Lord is leading me.
  • I don’t know why I said that when I did, I just felt so angry.
  • Knee-jerk reactions to others hurtful comments (or even losing something like a phone or driver’s license).
  • The salesman promised me I’d save $100 dollars, so I’m out to buy new shoes!
  • My problems are so bad that there’s no one who can understand what I’m going though.
  • I thought I’d be more honest, but when the person was looking me in the eye, I chose to lie rather than risk upsetting them.

Wise behavior examples:

  • Moving forward even when not all things are known
  • Not moving forward unless there is clarity on some level
  • Combining emotional awareness with awareness of facts and clarity to make decisions
  • Making decisions based on current information and personal priorities regardless of results
  • Maintaining healthy perspective in spite of difficult or overwhelming circumstances
  • Maintaining awareness of self and personal priorities in difficult circumstances

Practical examples of what wise behavior looks like

  • I don’t know how all the pieces of my life will come together, but I know what I can do right now to serve my family and others I come into contact, so I’ll start there.
  • I began by asking others who had done what I wanted to do for advice before I just started moving without any direction.
  • I was so angry that I asked to take a moment to myself to calm down before continuing the conversation.
  • The salesman promised I’d save $100 dollars, so I’m waiting till I see that savings, then I’ll buy new shoes.
  • The circumstances felt so overwhelming that I needed to take some time to remember what I’m grateful for so I didn’t lose my mind.
  • The comments were hurtful, but I know that I’m supposed to love my enemies, so I was able to bite my tongue and just smile.

Myths about Wisdom

Myth: Wise people live like the guru up on a tall misty mountain and speak nuggets of easily digestible (and clever) sayings

Truth: The scriptures tell us that the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, so we know that we don’t have to be special people to get it, just have to seek with and have a deep respect for who He is.

10 The fear of the LORD [is] the beginning of wisdom; A good understanding have all those who do [His commandments]. His praise endures forever.

– Psalm 111:10 NKJV

6 Behold, You desire truth in the inward parts, And in the hidden [part] You will make me to know wisdom.

– Psalm 51:6 NKJV

Myth: Being wise means being right

Truth: Wise people accept instruction, Proverbs 9:9, so we still have things to learn after being wise. Wisdom is the willingness to learn, not the ability to be right.

9 Give instruction to the wise, and they will become wiser still; teach the righteous and they will gain in learning. 10 The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is insight.

– Proverbs 9:9–10 (NRSV

7 Wisdom [is] the principal thing; [Therefore] get wisdom. And in all your getting, get understanding.

– Proverbs 4:7 NKJV)

God’s Wisdom is Different

Being wise isn’t about being right and it’s not about astounding others with our wit, cleverness or knowledge. True wisdom from God is based in fear of Him and an understanding of who He is. It brings awareness of Him, His nature, and His work. It even goes so far as to contradict the knowledge and ideals of human wisdom.

18 For the message about the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. 19 For it is written,

“I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and the discernment of the discerning I will thwart.”

20 Where is the one who is wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? 21 For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, God decided, through the foolishness of our proclamation, to save those who believe. 22 For Jews demand signs and Greeks desire wisdom, 23 but we proclaim Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, 24 but to those who are the called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. 25 For God’s foolishness is wiser than human wisdom, and God’s weakness is stronger than human strength.

– 1 Corinthians 1:18–25 (NRSV)

Wisdom that comes with the knowledge of God also means that our words and our actions align. We don’t just speak words that sound good we live them out and the truth of God can be seen our living.

My speech and my proclamation were not with plausible words of wisdom, but with a demonstration of the Spirit and of power, so that your faith might rest not on human wisdom but on the power of God. Yet among the mature we do speak wisdom, though it is not a wisdom of this age or of the rulers of this age, who are doomed to perish. But we speak God’s wisdom, secret and hidden, which God decreed before the ages for our glory.

– 1 Corinthians 2:4–7 (NRSV)



[1] “Psychology Today.” Wisdom. N.p., n.d. Web. 23 May 2015. <>.

The Constant Critique

In our viewing the world, we often come at people and circumstances as if we are the great editor and critic in the sky. We look for perfection in others so we can point out all the times that it isn’t there. I don’t mean perfection as lack of sin, I mean perfection as that mysterious, mostly made up standard that we hold ourselves and others up to. We look at what they’ve brought, whether that be by their actions or a physical thing they’re offering, and we look it over for flaws and problems. WE first check to see how good it is, by our standards, of course. If we find anything imperfect, most of the time we stop there. It’s not worth my time, if I find the least thing wrong with it.

Applying this to people themselves is deeply wrong. I don’t think most people intentionally do this to people, but subconsciously, we still can do it. You didn’t do this one particular thing as good I can, or just as good as I thought you’d be able to, so therefore, I’ve lowered you in my own estimation.

What’s Behind This Behavior?

This behavior is driven by one thing: arrogance, pure and simple. Nothing about another person or even what they have to offer is worth this kind of condescension and scrutiny. Remember, we’re not dealing with sin, we’re dealing with personal behaviors and preferences.

Most of the truly dangerous critiques are so subtle and ingrained in us we don’t even view them as critiques. Examples include:

  • That person doesn’t spend as much time/effort/money on this one part of their life as I think they should. (This is usually couched as “encouragement”: That person would be so nice looking if they just tried ___________. Same root issue, same arrogance, but it’s now phrased condescendingly to assuage the guilt of the person saying it.)
  • Their work contains a mistake (typo, being incomplete).
  • It should have gone/been done like this. (This phrase, when uttered by a person who has never done or been involved in what happened, is particularly agonizing.)
  • I don’t feel like they even tried.
  • I could have made that better if they’d just asked me/listened to me.

Judgment on others and their work is so common in our culture that we think of it as a normal aspect of being around other humans. While it may be normal in the sense that it’s common, it’s not normal in the sense that it’s a behavior that’s very unhealthy.

Feeling that others will pick apart you and what you’re doing first and then accept you (or not) destroys trust. Even if you “get used to it” and accept that that’s the way people work, you still put up protective walls to keep from being hurt.

When we are interacting with someone and are in a place where these kind of thoughts are an easy go-to, we need to stop and think about what’s truly important in this relationship. Are you judging a person worthy to be your friend or to accept their work based on their perfection? Are you more likely to be friends with a person because you view them as competent, perfect, or put-together? God is no respecter of person, and I do not think it healthy for the mission of sharing Jesus Christ or for the overall health of the body of Christ to think that we should try it.

The Difference between Judgement and Constructive Observations

We need each other. We are made better by being surrounded by friends who care as much about each other as they do for themselves. Sometimes, we have blind spots about ourselves that only a friend can see and help us to improve. What’s the difference between the counsel and support of a friend and a unjustified critique? Sometimes it’s obvious; sometimes it’s not. Here are some pointers that can help determine if you should be still and look for the good in another:

  • They didn’t ask for it. We value our own opinion highly, but unless someone has somehow indicated that they would be interested in hearing your opinion, you should definitely keep it to yourself.
  • It’s not a subject you know much about. It’s very easy and very tempting to have opinions over things we’ve heard about or read about, but never actually applied to our own life. If you haven’t “been there, done that”, then don’t act like you know.
  • You’re after a result that benefits you. Is your advice truly beneficial to them and improving their life or are you after something that benefits your own? Even if it’s just to make you look smart for having wise counsel, if it’s not in their best interest, don’t offer it.
  • You are not in any kind of accountability relationship with them. Just because we’ve known someone a long time, doesn’t automatically mean we have the right to critique them. Even deep friendships can be hurt by one person trying to give input in situations where it’s not appreciated. Always treat your close friends with the same kind of respect you would someone you’ve just started a friendship with. Offering advice to people you work with should be done with much caution. If you’re not their boss, keep your input to favorite recipes and other water cooler topics.

When Can We Offer Input?

Some relationships come with the knowledge that critiques are a part of the package. The best examples of this are discipleship/accountability groups. You know that when you’re discussing life, critiques are an important part of why you’re together. If you join a group like this and bristle at every piece of input, you’re missing the point of why you’re even there. (How to give good input in situations like this is a whole other topic, beyond the scope of today’s topic.) Another example of this is boss/employee relationship. While annual reviews are no fun, they are a part of being employed.

We can always offer input when asked. Sometimes, we need help and we need perspective. If someone asks what we think, then tell them. It should be done with love, but it’s good and right to offer help when someone else asks. On that note, if you need advice, don’t hesitate to ask for it. We’ve been given the circle of friends that we have for a reason and to keep pride from allowing them help us only hurts us.

[The other end of this extreme is that you never allow anyone to make any observation (let alone judgements) on you or what you’re doing without having a bruised ego or temper tantrum. Everything that’s said to you that isn’t praise is view as hurtful and selfish. This is also arrogance, only fueled by insecurity instead of pride.]

What Do the Scriptures Say?

We are warned against both harsh judgments of others as well as the tendency to be harder on other than our selves.

37 “Do not judge, and you will not be judged; do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven; 38 give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap; for the measure you give will be the measure you get back.”

39 He also told them a parable: “Can a blind person guide a blind person? Will not both fall into a pit? 40 A disciple is not above the teacher, but everyone who is fully qualified will be like the teacher. 41 Why do you see the speck in your neighbor’s eye, but do not notice the log in your own eye? 42 Or how can you say to your neighbor, ‘Friend, let me take out the speck in your eye,’ when you yourself do not see the log in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your neighbor’s eye. – Luke 6:37–42 (NRSV)

We cannot offer help to others when we are damaged ourselves. We think we know that we’re good; we think we know that we can fix others, but more often than not, we’re wrong. When we are building friendships and relationships with others, remember this: “…give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put in your lap.” But only if you are the kind of person that first offers that kind of generosity to others.


Taste and See that the Lord Is Good

8 O taste and see that the LORD is good; happy are those who take refuge in him. – Psalm 34:8 (NRSV)

We often think that we’ve gotten something – life or our Christian walk – wrong if we experience bad things. We view the power of our prayer life as a way to leverage God into giving us what we want. We think that we’re ahead of the curve if we have a life free of trouble.

What if, however, that’s only taking in half the picture of who God is? What if, in order to more fully experience God, we must be fully willing to experience discomfort or even pain? Could it be possible to find the fullness of a deep and powerful relationship with God, we must be willing to walk through all the experiences of life, including (especially?) the painful, uncomfortable and dangerous ones? If you are walking through tough circumstances, it might be time to stop asking to get out of them, and instead, time to start experiencing God in every moment.

David Acting Crazy

In Psalm 34:8, David says, “O taste and see that the Lord is good.” What does it mean to “taste and see” when in fact God is untouchable and un-seeable (and certainly un-taste-able!)?

David wrote this psalm after a harrowing experience where he had to act like a lunatic in order to narrowly escape getting caught by his enemy.

10 David rose and fled that day from Saul; he went to King Achish of Gath. 11 The servants of Achish said to him, “Is this not David the king of the land? Did they not sing to one another of him in dances,

‘Saul has killed his thousands,
and David his ten thousands’?”

12 David took these words to heart and was very much afraid of King Achish of Gath. 13 So he changed his behavior before them; he pretended to be mad when in their presence. He scratched marks on the doors of the gate, and let his spittle run down his beard. 14 Achish said to his servants, “Look, you see the man is mad; why then have you brought him to me? 15 Do I lack madmen, that you have brought this fellow to play the madman in my presence? Shall this fellow come into my house?” [1]

David had an opportunity to experience God in His greatness while being in a dire situation. Saul had decided to kill him (that’s why he was fleeing to Gath in the first place). After he escapes, David is praising God for saving him from his enemies.[2] It probably didn’t feel good to have to fake insanity to not get reported back to Saul. It probably was an ego blow to not give in and act like a celebrity as he could have (they were, after all, talking about the songs being sung about him). Yet, after it’s all done, David reminds us that we are to taste and see that the Lord is good. David learned in this example and in many more times during his life to praise God for who God was, not for who David was and certainly not for the circumstances David found himself in. Knowing the experience that David had been through when he wrote this psalm, is there any information that can help us understand our own walk better?

Tasting and seeing is another way of saying fully experiencing. In this passage, taste can mean to perceive. In spite of the bad situation and the potential for a pity party, David chose to perceive God’s goodness.

Strong’s Hebrew #2938. טָעַם ṭâʿam, taw-am´; a prim, root; to taste; fig. to perceive:—× but, perceive, taste.[3]

How are you perceiving God? What are you doing in your life to choose to experience the presence of God? Are you savoring God in each and every experience in order to more fully know Him, no matter how it feels to your flesh?

The Essence of the Experience: Good is good but so is bad.

The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines experience as: practical contact with and observation of facts or events.[4] Combining in what we read in the psalm into this definition and we get: practical contact with and observations of God’s goodness in facts or events. It means that we can encounter God and see Him by observing what’s happening to us and around us.

It’s easy to limit experiencing God to the “warm-fuzzy” side of things. Being in the presence of the Lord can feel amazing. It does feel good to be blessed and to know we’re loved. But to limit our willingness to experience the Lord to only the times that is a positive experience may mean that we’re limiting our exposure to the heart and nature of God.

When we see evil and hurt and darkness, we know that’s not of God. God is light[5] and truth[6] and goodness[7]. But He’s also in all things and through all things[8]. He never leaves or forsakes us[9], and His grace is sufficient for us, always[10]. We don’t have to wait until the storm has passed the bad feeling leaves in order to experience Him. We can open ourselves to Him all the time and experience Him in every emotion and in every circumstance.

Daily Perceptions: 3 Practices for Deeper Perception

While there are certain activities that will universally help in learning to experience the Lord, it is for the most part completely personal. It can’t be defined or turned into a step-by-step guaranteed process; it can only be grown and deepened by experiencing God yourself. However, because it can be difficult to sense the Lord in the usual experiences of life, it is important to talk about those universal things we can do to try to be more sensitive and to share with each other the ups and downs of how we’re doing.

These three steps are not only good for beginning the deeper walk, but can also grow with you. As you mature, you can always find more meaningful ways to practice the same steps.

  • Spending time studying the word. While I don’t want to go into a deep discussion on the difference between reading the word and studying it, it is important to know that a daily reading plan isn’t going to cut it when it comes to really knowing the Lord. You need to feed on His word and let it come alive in you. God’s Spirit is alive in us and is teaching us personal truths from His word, if we open ourselves to truly seeing what’s on the pages.
  • Talking to Him as a friend. So many times we simply go through as if He’s our therapist: here to listen to our problems. We list our troubles we talk about our struggles and occasionally we remember to praise. But is that how you talk to your best friend? Are you connecting with Him as a completely compassionate friend who knows everything about what you’re dealing with and is 100% on your side? He’s not a vending machine; He’s not demanding a specific liturgy of words at the same time every day. He’s the best friend you will ever have.
  • Try to see the goodness in others. We often forget that just as God is in us, God is in others as well. As we interact with them, it can be very eye opening to seek out the power of God in everyone you meet. They might not even be aware of it themselves, and their life choices may be squelching the flow of His love down to a mere trickle, but it’s always there. The beauty of God’s nature can be so helpful in reminding us of the peace and power of God. People are much more difficult to see God in. By choosing to limit our own selfish reactions to people and consciously choose to see goodness, we are open to sensing the deep love of the Lord for us and all His children.


[1] The Holy Bible: New Revised Standard Version. (1989). (1 Sa 21:10–15). Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers.

[2] The Holy Bible: New Revised Standard Version. (1989). (Ps 34:4). Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers.

[3] Strong, J. (2009). A Concise Dictionary of the Words in the Greek Testament and The Hebrew Bible (Vol. 2, p. 46). Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.

[4] “experience.” Merriam-Webster, 2011. Web. 16 May 2015.

[5] The Holy Bible: New Revised Standard Version. (1989). (I John 1:5). Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers.

[6] The Holy Bible: New Revised Standard Version. (1989). (Jhn 14:6). Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers.

[7] The Holy Bible: New Revised Standard Version. (1989). (Ps 107:1). Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers.

[8] The Holy Bible: New Revised Standard Version. (1989). (Rom 11:36). Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers.

[9] The Holy Bible: New Revised Standard Version. (1989). (Deut 31:6). Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers.

[10] The Holy Bible: New Revised Standard Version. (1989). (2 Cor 12:9). Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers.

Meditating on the Lord

1 Happy are those who do not follow the advice of the wicked, or take the path that sinners tread, or sit in the seat of scoffers; 2 but their delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law they meditate day and night. 3 They are like trees planted by streams of water, which yield their fruit in its season, and their leaves do not wither. In all that they do, they prosper. &em; Psalm 1:1–3 (NRSV)

What Is Meditation

Merriam-Webster defines meditation as: the act or process of spending time in quiet thought. Current science has shown that it is more than just quiet thought; it is the process of choosing quite awareness.[1] Meditation is defined by Dan Harris, author of 10% Happier, as the process of focusing on breathing, getting distracted, then refocusing on it.[2] Researchers like Wendy Hasenkamp agree.

In an attempt to see what meditation did to the mind, Wendy Hasenkamp asked participants to focus on their breathing. If their mind wandered, they were to push a button and refocus on their breathing. While they were doing this, their brains were being scanned by an MRI to see the changes in activity.

The study showed that the mind, when switching to a meditating mode, used three different parts of the brain: the default mode network when the mind was wandering, regions of the brain that detected important or relevant information when the participants realized their mind was wandering, and the executive brain function took over to redirect the mind to focus on the correct thing. In addition to seeing the mind switch the areas it was using, participants who were more experienced at meditating were more quickly and completely able to switch back to the meditation when their mind wandered.

Researchers concluded that meditation allows us to practice the mental “muscles” that let us be the boss over our own thoughts. As we continually pull our thoughts of the daydreaming, wandering thoughts that take us wherever our emotions allow, we become stronger and faster at choosing what our mind focuses on. [3]

Meditation and Scripture

This book of the law shall not depart out of your mouth; you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to act in accordance with all that is written in it. For then you shall make your way prosperous, and then you shall be successful. &em; Joshua 1:8 (NRSV)

Many places in scriptures we are commanded to meditate on the Lord, His ways, and His laws. The Old Testament promise for this is success and peace.

3 Those of steadfast mind you keep in peace— in peace because they trust in you. &em; Isaiah 26:3 (NRSV)

Under the new covenant of the blood of Jesus, it is even more beneficial to focus our mind, as Apostle Paul reminds us, to find the peace of God that protects our hearts and minds.

Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice. Let your gentleness be known to everyone. The Lord is near. Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. &em; Philippians 4:4–7 (NRSV)

Practical Meditation Steps

The process of meditation as described by Dan Harris or the research of Wendy Hasenkamp is about clearing your mind or about thinking about nothing. This is not what the scriptures say, but it is the first step of getting to a mental place where we can clear our thoughts to focus on who God is and what He’s done for us.

If your mind is full of worry and troubles, just adding the good thoughts in won’t reset your mind; it will only clutter it more. Focusing on something as peaceful and regular and necessary as your breath can turn off the “worry circuits” in your mind and create a quiet place to bring in the thoughts of praise for the Lord.

Prayer and asking passionately (supplication) are also a part of this mediation process along with the meditation habits of not worrying. When we’re coming to the Lord and focusing on Him, talking to Him about what’s troubling us is a vital part of letting go of the anxious thoughts. In fact, from the way Apostle Paul phrases it, it might be the only way to truly get rid of them, “Do not worry… let your requests be known to God.” (Philippians 4:6)

Living Every Moment in Meditation

In the busyness of daily life, it can be difficult to see how the mundane tasks tie in with serving and glorifying God. It can be easy to divide our actions and even our thoughts into separate categories: the God stuff and the life stuff. However, every moment we’ve been given is a gift from God, not something that we have to get through in order to get to the “real” ones.

Meditation offers a way to take a moment and feel connected with what we’re doing. It’s a way to bring a connection with God into anything and everything we’re doing. If you’re feeling overwhelmed by the cares of the world, or the demands of your day, stop and take one moment and find the peace of God. Still your mind through turning off your busy mind, and reconnect with God by choosing to focus on Him.

Protection of Heart and Mind

Apostle Paul says the result of this kind of focused mind “will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:7). This kind of effort isn’t simply a good idea or suggestion. It’s the mechanism that we’ve been given to protect our devotion to Christ. We are constantly being shot with by the flaming arrows of the devil (Ephesians 6:16). Our faith can be potentially damaged if we don’t keep our focus on Him and seek His goodness in everything we do and see.

In the parable of the sower, the seeds (the good news of Jesus Christ) that were strangled by thorns were the people who let the cares of the world take over and defeat the belief in Christ.

22 As for what was sown among thorns, this is the one who hears the word, but the cares of the world and the lure of wealth choke the word, and it yields nothing. – Matthew 13:22 (NRSV)

We need to have a tool in our spiritual belt that allows us to fight the thorns away. Meditation is a heavyweight in the fight of keeping our faith strong and our focus on Christ.


[1] “Psychology Today.” Mindfulness. N.p., n.d. Web. 09 May 2015. <>.

[2] ABC News. “The Long Journey to Becoming 10% Happier”. Nightline. 12 March, 2014. Video. 09 May 2015. Notes from approx. 10:39. <>

[3] Hasenkamp, Wendy. “How to Focus a Wandering Mind.” Berkeley, 13 July 2013. Web. 09 May 2015. <>.

Making Moments Matter

We All Seek Happiness

Happiness is something we all seek. Psychologists study it and scientists look for products or life changes that can improve it. Long before today’s scientific method and late-night “info-mercials” selling happiness came around, one of the wisest men alive spent his life searching for the same answer.

The book of Ecclesiastes was written by “the Preacher” tradition, and tradition says that it was King Solomon who wrote it. The fact that he says he was the son of David, king in Jerusalem (Ecclesiastes 1:1) and that he had collected “have acquired great wisdom, surpassing all who were over Jerusalem before me” (1:16) lends credence to this tradition, and most scholars agree with it.

According to the book, the Preacher decides to learn about wisdom and madness and folly (1:17) and spends his life chasing after things that are supposed to give us happiness and purpose. His overall result in all things, however, is that they are all pointless and don’t give us any security in life. (9:12) The only things that really make life worth living, according to him, are to enjoy the life you’ve been given.

So go ahead. Eat your food with joy, and drink your wine with a happy heart, for God approves of this! Wear fine clothes, with a splash of cologne!

Live happily with the woman you love through all the meaningless days of life that God has given you under the sun. The wife God gives you is your reward for all your earthly toil. 10 Whatever you do, do well. For when you go to the grave,* there will be no work or planning or knowledge or wisdom. – Ecclesiastes 9:7-10

He also talks about knowing God and living in fear and respect of who He is. That, combined with finding joy in everything you do, is “the whole of the matter”.

13 That’s the whole story. Here now is my final conclusion: Fear God and obey his commands, for this is everyone’s duty. 14 God will judge us for everything we do, including every secret thing, whether good or bad. – Ecclesiastes 12:13-14

Choosing Happiness

Today, psychology is beginning to come to the same conclusion as the Preacher. Happiness itself is fleeting and not able to be maintained by any outside influence or material goods. Lottery winners are not happier than the average population and accident victims are not unhappier.[1]

Hedonic adaptation is the process of us returning to a medium level of happiness. It’s what happens after the high of a vacation comes down. After the raise/promotion levels out and we’re back to the grind at work. It’s our mind’s ability to return to a “normal” feeling.[2]

According to an article by Sonja Lyubomirsky in an article for Psychology Today, we can affect the process of adaptation by how we look at what has happened to us. When a positive experience happens, just enjoy it! Thinking about it or analyzing it brings it down quicker than just accepting the good feelings and experiences. When a negative experience happens, think about. Write about it, more specifically. By analyzing and journaling and expressing what we’re dealing with and going through, we can more quickly move through the bad feelings and get back to our normal happiness level. [3]

One group of psychologists says that the process of becoming happier takes 5 pathways: positive emotions, engagement, meaning, positive relationships, drawing on character strengths. [4] Paralleling what the Preacher learned, we can pull from this daily habits to help increase our happiness.

Positive Emotion (savoring the moment): Eat and enjoy life

Positive emotion isn’t about trying to always feel good. It’s about choosing gratitude in each moment and finding ways to focus on the positive. It’s about choosing to praise God in all circumstances. Enjoying life is easy when everything’s going well and the sun’s been shining every day. When the clouds come, we can still choose to find the good and celebrate what brings joy.

Gratitude journals can be a wonderful aide in helping us keep our focus on what’s truly important. One study even showed that gratitude increases your wellbeing by 10%.[5] The effects of gratitude go through your whole life and help you find balance and joy in every day and every situation.

Ecclesiastes talks about this concept in as “Eat your food with joy, and drink your wine with a happy heart” (9:7). It doesn’t mean put your head in the sand and pretend that nothings happening; it’s just another way of saying enjoy the moment and celebrate what you have.

Engagement : Do Your Work Well

Engagement is the act of being connected with whatever you’re doing at the moment. When you are not engaged, you may be going through the motions of something, but you’re not giving your best or contributing to your fullest potential. Happiness is negatively affected by feeling disconnected from your everyday routine.

If you’re in a situation that you’re struggling with, it can be easy to try to change the circumstances. Sometimes, that’s the only solution. More times, however, you are better of learning to find engagement in a situation you don’t like in order to practice a beneficial mentality. While a change in circumstance might be a quick fix, almost all circumstances get old and boring and challenging. A well-developed habit of engagement no matter what brings longer lasting contentment than the short term fix of running away.

Wherever you are, be all there! Live to the hilt every situation you believe to be the will of God. – Jim Elliot

Ecclesiastes’ version of this idea is “Whatever you do, do well. For when you go to the grave,* there will be no work or planning or knowledge or wisdom.”(9:10) There’s no do-overs in life. This is our one time of doing things and we should take advantage of that by doing it to our fullest.

Meaning : Know that You’re Working for God

We all need to know our purpose and to know that we’re engaged in working in that purpose. It doesn’t have to be a great and noble purpose that brings great worldly accolades or attention. It can be a simple purpose that only you know. But knowing what that is and being able to smile about even the most mundane tasks and feel connected with God in serving that purpose can bring a huge bump to your overall happiness.

Ecclesiastes reminds us that we are here to work for God and to know God, “That’s the whole story. Here now is my final conclusion: Fear God and obey his commands, for this is everyone’s duty.” (12:13) Fearing God, knowing who He is and who we should be in Him (the root of obedience) is vital to finding meaning, happiness and purpose.

Positive Relationships : Enjoy the Wife God Gave You

Walk with the wise and become wise, for a companion of fools suffers harm. – Proverbs 13:20 (NIV)

Husbands and wives are one relationship that is vital to happiness, but all relationship are important to our overall well-being. Who surround ourselves with can make or break our day and can bring us up, make us better people, or drag us down and make us feel worse. Sometimes, we can even surround ourselves with people who enable our problems because it’s easier than facing what we need to face. Good friends, friends worth having are the ones that support us and love us, but also challenge us to not stop in the middle of the race. They bring us up and help us become the fullest version of us that God has planned for us.

You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with. ― Jim Rohn

Ecclesiastes says “Live happily with the woman you love through all the meaningless days of life that God has given you under the sun. The wife God gives you is your reward for all your earthly toil.” As true as this is for marital relationships, it’s even true for friendships as well. Having friends and people we can turn to in the good times and the bad is an absolute joy.

Drawing on Character Strengths : Fear of God and His Judgement

We live in a world that lacks moral absolutes. We are told that it’s OK to believe what you’ve been taught, but not to expect others to believe it. It’s no longer about finding the truth that exists outside ourselves (as those of us who believe in a God with standards think), but instead it’s about finding the truth inside yourself and no one can tell you you’re wrong in what you find.

This is not helpful when learning to live a moral life. Christian morality has a dependence on knowing who God is and changing our behavior to reflect His likeness. We don’t think that we can define good; our theology says that we are all fallen and sinful and only God is good.

To operate and find happiness when we are denying ourselves what the world says is fun and entertainment, we must fully be convinced of the importance of our moral compass and draw from that when we make decisions. If we are feeling like we are just doing a duty or following an archaic list of rules, we won’t have the conviction to follow through when it matters. And it does matter.

Ecclesiastes, in all its admonitions to enjoy life, always reminds the reader that God is the judge and we are to fear Him (in reverence adore Him) and honor the commandments and teachings knowing we will stand before Him on judgement day. “God will judge us for everything we do, including every secret thing, whether good or bad.” (12:14)

As the Preacher says in his conclusion on the matter, it’s about knowing God and remember who He is. In this life of instability and change and ambiguity, we know we can rely on Him and that He is there for eternity. Getting to know Him and getting to enjoy being in His presence both now and in eternity is the whole reason and purpose for us.

And this is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent. – John 17:3 (NKJV)

[1] Adams, Susan. “Why Winning Powerball Won’t Make You Happy”. Forbes. Com: Retrieved May 3, 2015.

[2] Amin, Amit. “The Hedonic Treadmill”. Retrieved May 3, 2015.

[3] Lyubomirsky, Sonja. “Hedonic Adaptation to Positive and Negative Experiences”. Retrieved May 3, 2015.

[4] Zone Positive. “Five Pathways to Happiness”.

[5] Amin, Amit. “The 31 Benefits of Gratitude You Didn’t Even Know About”. Retrieved May 3, 2015.