In my “If You’re Happy and You Know It” post, I explained that knowing genuine happiness is to know God. Now comes the question, “who or what is God?” Before I give the specifics on God, let’s first take a quick look at the history of God.
According to historical scholars and researchers, Gods have been worshiped for over 5,000 years, and there is a good indication that human beings acknowledged higher powers before that. The earliest recorded worshipers were the Egyptians, who practiced rituals to worship their gods. These rituals became what we call religion, which the Oxford Dictionary defines as: “the belief in and worship of a superhuman power, especially a God or gods; a particular system of faith and worship; pursuit or interest to which someone ascribes supreme importance.”
Joshua J. Mark states in his article, Religion in the Ancient World, “There is no culture in recorded human history that has not practiced some form of religion.”¹ This demonstrates people inherently know something greater than themselves exists and existed before them. But, there are those who need to see it to believe and doubt God’s existence. Philosophers have long argued their cases against and for God’s existence, but freewill gives us the ability to decide what we believe. For those of you who are interested, an especially good argument for the existence of God comes from St. Thomas Aquinas’s “Five Ways” or proofs, in his book, Summa Theologica.
There are no historical or scientific accounts that reveal the exact reasons why people worshiped higher powers. Maybe this is why some people can’t get on board with believing in God and the practices of worship or religion. We know that human beings had a natural inclination to believe in and worship something greater than themselves and most people still do. Religions that developed long ago have the same purpose as those practiced today, which according to Mark is, “to provide human beings with the understanding that they are not alone in their struggles, suffering, and triumphs, that they can restrain their baser urges, and that death is not the end of existence.”² From this, we see that humans have an inherent need and desire for discipline, hope, comfort, freedom, satisfaction, peace, joy, and love – the precepts and elements of happiness. But, for us to get these, we must look beyond ourselves.
To look beyond oneself means to look up to God and look to others. People in ancient times looked up to the gods for the good of the group and their own benefit. They worshiped many gods because they thought there was a god for every need and aspect of their lives. They believed as long as they pleased the gods, the gods would help them exist well in this life and the next. Because the gods were supernatural, people couldn’t physically go to them or hand them gifts, so they pleased the gods by sacrificing their most excellent products to them. To ensure the gods were pleased, rules were established and everyone was expected to follow them. Soon, people focused more on following the rules and sacrificing than revering God. This focus on adhering to the rules created legalities and fear in the people, most likely resulting in corporeal punishments and personal anxieties – certainly not criteria for happiness.
The belief that the gods had to be made happy through sacrifice in order to maintain a good life was a good track to be on for leading a fruitful life, but it is not what we know to be the way of our one true God – the God I am talking about. The God we know through Scripture, wants us to be happy. He’s the one who sacrificed for us. He serves us with grace and mercy and has given us directions for how to be happy.
God is spirit, which according to the Amplified Bible means “the Source of life, yet invisible to mankind.” For us to be able to embrace and relate to that spirit, we often refer to God as He, but we do not worship statues of Him. God made it very clear that we are not to worship statues or idols, but to revere Him and follow His instructions. We may have representations or statues as sources to help us focus better on God, but we do not worship them per se. We worship and please God by how closely we live with Him in our own spirit.
God is omnipotent and omnipresent, yet personal because He is the source of life that also resides in each of us – in our souls. I liken it to light. God puts his light in us (soul) as soon as we are created, then once we gain enough knowledge and understanding, we decide how brightly it shines.
A good summary of who God is can be found in Scripture. According to The Amplified Bible, God is…
wise in heart and mighty in strength (Job 9:4)
merciful and compassionate (Deuteronomy 4:31)
my helper and ally (Psalm 54:4)
refuge (Psalm 62:8)
good (Psalm 73:1)
compassionate (Psalm 116:5)
true (John 3:33)
love (1 John 4:8)
victorious (1 John 5:4)
faithful (2 Corinthians 1:18 & 1 Corinthians 1:9)
God of forgiveness (Nehemiah 9:17)
God of peace (Hebrews 13:20, 1Thessalonians 5:23, Romans 15:33)
God of comfort (2 Corinthians 1:3)
God of peace and order (1 Corinthians 14:33)
Test yourself. Think about the effects on you and others when you are wise and strong, merciful, compassionate, a helper and friend, safe and secure, good, true, loving, victorious, faithful, are forgiven, are at peace, are comforted, and are drama free. The answer is happy.
God is spirit, consisting of all the necessities for happiness. When we are close with God and practice His virtues, we please God, and we are happy.
¹, ² Mark, J. J. (2018, March 23). Religion in the Ancient World. Ancient History Encyclopedia. Retrieved from https://www.ancient.eu/religion/