by Jeff Hagan
(Tacoma, WA, USA)

Non-denominational Reformed

Everyone wants to find happiness. Other than not having a relationship with Christ, the biggest thing that keeps us back from being happy is, unfortunately, ourselves. We put limitations on ourselves every day, whether consciously or subconsciously. There are several practical things we can do to overcome these restraints.

Let's look at some of the things you need to let go of on your journey to becoming a happier person. Of course there is a biblical difference between happiness and joy, but nevertheless, to be happy you need to let go of:

1. The Approval of Others
When it boils down to it, who cares what other people think? If you are happy with the decisions you have made, and have sought God's will, then whose business is it but you and God's? Imagine how much you could accomplish if you stopped letting other people's opinions dictate the way you live your life. Pray, obey, and study the Word and from there take the actions you discover that may improve your life.

Galatians 1:10, “For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ” (ESV).

2. Anger, Bitterness and Resentment
Anger will eat away at you from the inside. Learn how to forgive those who may have wronged you. This is NOT about dismissing the other persons harmful actions; it IS about easing the pain that it has caused inside of you.

Colossians 3:13, “Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you” (NIV).

3. Negative Body Image
This is a big one in the culture we find ourselves today. Only one person's opinion should matter to you when it comes to your body and that is you. If you are comfortable with yourself then that should be all that matters. Do not let others make you feel that you are “less than.”

Ephesians 2:10a, “For we are his God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus...” (ESV).

4. Finding a Perfect Partner
There is no such thing as a perfect partner, so go ahead and throw your checklist in the garbage. Just find the right person for you. The sooner you realize there is no one perfect person out there, the better off you will be.

5. A Perfect Life
Just like there is no perfect partner, there is also no perfect life. Life is what you put into it. The choices you make will directly influence the life you live. It is up to you to create the best possible world for yourself while here on this earth.

John 16:33b, “...In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world” (NIV).

6. You are Going to be Rich
Too many people live their lives with the dangling hope that they will one day be rich. Stop letting money be your motivator. Find a career you are passionate about and do your best. Be content with what it brings you. Turn off your thoughts of winning the lottery each week and you won't be let down each week when you lose.

Luke 16:13, “No servant can serve two masters. Either he will hate one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money” (NIV).

7. Thoughts of Your Ex
Your ex is your ex for a reason. If you are going to think of him or her at all, try and focus only on the lessons the experience taught you. It is true God “hates” divorce, but if reconciliation is impossible and the relationship has ended, then this advice is important to follow.

Philippians 3:13b, “...But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and striving forward to what lies ahead,” (ESV).

8. Stubbornness and Pride
I know it's hard to admit, but sometimes you are wrong. Think of all that could be uncovered to you if you started listening to the opinions of others and stopped focusing only on your own. Stubbornness springs out of pride and nobody wants to be around a prideful person.

Proverbs 11:2, “When pride comes, then comes disgrace, but with the humble is wisdom” (ESV).

9. Procrastination
Stop thinking you will finally get to whatever needs doing “tomorrow.” Live life in the present. Manage your time the best that you possibly can. Doing so can ease and even eliminate worry and stress. This gives you more free time to enjoy the things you like doing.

Proverbs 13:4, “Lazy people want much but get little while the diligent are prospering” (LB).

10. Baggage
All of us have been hurt by someone we loved. Bringing any of those negative feelings into future relationships will only prove to be destructive. Try to start each new relationship with a clean slate.

Hebrews 12:1, “...let us throw off everything that hinders...” (NIV).

11. Negativity
Whether we realize it or not we have so much to be grateful for. Just take time to reflect on those things and appreciate them. Being positive is contagious.

Philippians 4:8, “Finally brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about those things” (NIV).

12. Being Judgmental
If we spent as much time worrying about our own actions as we do worrying about the actions of others, our lives would be much more meaningful. You have no idea what is going on with another person so who are you to pass judgment on them?

Matthew 7:1-2, “Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you” (NIV).

13. Jealousy or Envy
Happiness is not having what you want; it is wanting what you have. Stop being jealous of others and start appreciating what you have. This is the heart of the tenth commandment, “Do not covet.” Everyone's life is unique; you have certain things to offer that others do not. When we act in a jealous way, all we do is bring negative feelings into our lives. There is absolutely nothing positive to be gained from acting this way.

James 3:16, “For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder and every vile practice” (ESV).

14. Insecurity
For the most part, happy people tend to have very high levels of self-esteem. They accept who they are and own it every day. They give off an heir of confidence and send out a positive vibe. There is really no reason to be insecure in life. If there are things you are self-conscious about, go out and do what you can to change them. Only you, with the help of the Holy Spirit, have the ability to create the best you possible.

Galatians 2:20, “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me” (ESV).

15. Depending on Others for Your Happiness
Ultimately, the only person (human) you can truly count on is yourself. Do not make the mistake a lot of people do and place your happiness in the hands of others. A relationship is not going to fulfill the void if you are unable to make yourself happy. You need to achieve happiness and contentment on your own before you can find others to share it with. This is absolutely necessary to becoming self-sufficient. There is, of course, One who you can lean on for help in finding happiness.

Philippians 4:13, “I can do all things through him Christ who strengthens me” (ESV).

16. The Past
Stop living in the past! There is nothing to be gained if you swim in the lake of mistakes you have made. Take past mistakes as lessons learned, and move on. You cannot completely move on to a better future if you keep looking behind you. Things happened, and that's all there is to it. At times life can bite; move past it.

2 Corinthians 5:17, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation, the old has passed away; behold the new has come” (ESV).

17. Control
Sometimes you just need to let life flow along the way it was meant to. You cannot spend your life stressing out about things that are beyond your control. Try to relax and let things happen naturally. Embrace the unknown as this is where surprise, growth and learning reside. Let yourself be excited by unknown occurrences, and enjoy the excitement they bring. Life, and the world, are under the Lord's providential care, not yours.

Proverbs 19:21, “Many are the plans in the mind of man, but it is the purpose of the Lord that will stand” (ESV).

18. Expectations
Managing your expectations is a major key to happiness. If you let go of expectations, then you cannot be disappointed. Do not expect any particular results from any given situation. Go into things with an open mind. This will allow you to give it your full attention without the pressure of living up to any preconceived ideas.

Proverbs 16:9, “The heart of a man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps” (ESV).

True and complete joy can be found only in the Lord, but there is nothing wrong with taking steps to try and make one's life happier.

This list may seem simplistic, but as I am sure you know, trying to live out these steps is very difficult in this fallen world. Do what you can to be happy, but never lose your eternal focus and your absolute dependence on Christ.

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