I read a USA Today article and was surprised to find that I don’t live in one of the happiest states in America. You probably don’t either. In fact, I was really surprised by the results I read in the article.
Suffice it to say that the Bible Belt was excluded.
Which states made the top twenty?
Here is the list of the happiest states, according to the survey. The list starts with twenty and ends with number one, the happiest state:
- 20. Florida – Of course! Most of the residents are retired and playing golf every day.
- 19. Nevada – They obviously didn’t survey the people who just lost their paycheck at a casino.
- 18. Nebraska – They must have done their survey in June, not February.
- 17. Massachusetts – They only surveyed baseball fans.
- 16. Connecticut – It’s a really small state.
- 15. Arizona – They probably surveyed the snowbirds in February.
- 14. California – Beaches, Hollywood, and Disneyland. My home state. I’m good with this one.
- 13. Washington – It is a beautiful state—if you can catch it on an unrainy day.
- 12. Minnesota – Another beautiful state. I liked this choice.
- 11. New Hampshire – See my comment on Connecticut.
- 10. North Dakota – No comment.
- 9. South Dakota – See above.
- 8. Delaware – A really, really small state.
- 7. Vermont – This state was surveyed in early October and they asked people eating pancakes.
- 6. Colorado – They surveyed skiers.
- 5. Utah – I have a lot of comments, none of which I will type.
- 4. Montana – Seriously? It’s FREEZING there half the year!
- 3. Alaska – They only surveyed the people from the cruise ships.
- 2. Wyoming – Last winter, the chill factor was 69 degrees below zero. How happy is THAT?
- 1. Hawaii – I can’t argue with this one. I’d be happy to live there too!
Did the list surprise you?
The list made me kind of skeptical (obviously!) How did these people define and attempt to measure happiness?
So, I researched 24/7 Tempo, the group that did the survey. This organization used the 2019 Gallup Well-Being Index, which is supposed to capture what people feel about their daily lives.
People were measured in five categories: social relationships, financial security, relationship to community, physical health, and career prospects.
Notice that no one asked them how they felt about their relationship with God or their hope for an eternal life.
Which states are the most religious?
I felt very sad that the states with the highest percentages of Christians did not make the top twenty list.
According to a 2017 US News article, the list is as follows:
- 10. North Carolina
- 9 and 8: Oklahoma and Georgia tied.
- 7. West Virginia
- 6. South Carolina
- 5. Arkansas
- 4. Louisiana
- 3. Tennessee
- 2 and 1: Mississippi and Alabama tied.
Why aren’t the most religious states the happiest?
Did the survey miss the truth or reveal a truth?
I think the answer to both of those questions is yes.
One of the strong themes of Scripture is that the world doesn’t think like God thinks.
Isaiah wrote, “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the LORD” (Isaiah 55:8). The apostle John taught Christians to feel differently about the world. He wrote, “Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him” (1 John 2:15).
If happiness is measured by the world’s standards, Christians won’t be considered the happiest. Nevertheless, doesn’t it seem strange that the religious states weren’t the happiest?
The Bible doesn’t say much about happiness
Happiness is based on the same word as happenings. The Bible typically focuses on joy, a sense of well-being that transcends circumstance. It makes sense that a survey questioning people’s earthly circumstances would miss the deeper, eternal perspectives.
People are happy when the money is good, the jobs are certain, the friendships are plentiful, and the doctor pronounces them healthy.
But none of those circumstances will matter eternally.
What if they looked for the joyful states?
King Solomon said, “I perceived that there is nothing better for them than to be joyful and to do good as long as they live” (Ecclesiastes 3:12). Jesus told his apostles, “These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full” (John 15:11). But, Jesus said that to his apostles right before he went to the garden of Gethsemane to wait for the soldiers.
Joy is the foundational sense of well-being that transcends circumstances. Joy can’t be understood by a world that only pursues happiness. Christians have a higher calling and a higher blessing. We have the joy that Jesus promised.
But, is it possible to have both?
Joy and happiness
The reason for this blog post is simple: Christians should strive for both joy and happiness.
I’m so grateful to own and teach an eternal perspective on life. If we have to choose, we should choose joy. But, I’m sad that the rest of the world doesn’t see Christianity as a source of “happiness” as well.
Should we reexamine our witness to the world? Do people who know you consider you a “happy” person? Should they?
Acts 13:52 says, “And the disciples were filled with joy and with the Holy Spirit.” Joy is one of the fruits of the Holy Spirit.
There is a LOT that Christians can’t be happy about with the world. But that doesn’t mean we can’t reflect the joy of our salvation to the people around us.
Happiness is a choice; joy is a gift. Why don’t we strive for both?
The world is watching.