Best-selling author Alli Worthington encourages Christian women to combat today's culture of busyness, stress and fear by inviting in God's best, most peaceful life, in her new book, The Year of Living Happy.
Worthington, author of Breaking Busy and Fierce Faith, told The Christian Post that while "dark seasons" in life are inevitable, they can quickly wreak havoc on both our personal and spiritual lives. But God has a greater vision for His children: As Christians, we should be the "happiest people out there," she said.
"Throughout Scripture, God continually tells us to be happy," she said. "We see commands such as 'rejoice,' 'do not be afraid,' 'be of good cheer,' 'give thanks.' The only reason happiness we'll ever have is living a life seeking God. When we follow His commands, we find the true recipe for happiness."
In The Year of Living Happy, Worthington offers practical steps women can take to cultivate true happiness — a word she defined as a "feeling of connection and contentment" — in their lives.
"For every person, two things lead to a happy life: Contentment and connections," she explained. "Contentment means choosing to be grateful for the blessings God has given you and mindful of the beauty around you. Connections means maintaining a relationship with God and investing in those around you."
Every woman, she said, has an "inner critic" who continually tells them they aren't enough; that things aren't going to turn out well, and that they don't deserve happiness.
"The best thing we can do for our happiness is take those thoughts captive, renew our minds and ask God what He wants to think," she said. "The loudest voice we hear is our thoughts, and when we change those from unhelpful to healthy, we're going to see our happiness grow on a daily basis."
She speaks from personal experience: Despite being a successful business owner, wife and mother of five boys, Worthington revealed she has battled feelings of inadequacy, fear and anxiety. Happiness, she said, sometimes "feels like a hard-won battle."
In modern Christian culture, the idea of being "happy" isn't necessarily popular, the author admitted. But after spending a year studying the idea of happiness, she discovered that science "consistently backed what Scripture said."
"We often hear, 'happiness is a fleeting feeling, but joy is what we should have as Christians; if you're a Christian, you shouldn't strive for happiness,'" she said. "But there is nothing biblical about that statement. Happiness and holiness go hand-in-hand, and I think denying that hurts our witness."
The misconception that joy and happiness are on opposite sides of the spectrum was invented just a little over a hundred years ago, the author said. She argued that many of the words our modern English Bibles use like 'joy,' 'gladness,' and 'delight' are synonyms for the original Hebrew and Greek words that mean happiness.
The difference, she said, lies in the world's idea of happiness versus Scripture's definition. While the world defines happiness as success, money and power, Scripture tells us that true happiness is achieved only through a relationship with Christ.
"Without Christ, there is no true, lasting happiness — there are only moments of fleeting happiness," she reiterated, adding: "When we leave the concept of happiness to the world, look what happens. People reach their goals and find the same emptiness inside."
Worthington encourages readers to ask themselves: What does happiness mean to me?
"When we define our happiness by our own standards and fall in line with God's will for our lives, we give ourselves a break and we realize things don't have to be perfect to be happy," she explained.
"For me, happiness means knowing I'm doing my best and following God and serving others. It means being able to put my head on the pillow at night and having that feeling of deep contentment, knowing things aren't perfect and bad things happen, but through Christ, my future is secure. I want to be that girl standing on the mountaintop saying, 'It's OK to be happy.'"