Following their banishment from Eden’s paradise, God blessed Adam and Eve with two sons, Cain and Abel. Moses records that both offered sacrifices to God, but only Abel’s offering was accepted (Gen. 4:3-4). Cain’s was not (Gen. 4:5). Cain allowed his anger and resentment toward his brother to grow so much that seized an opportunity and murdered Abel in cold blood (Gen. 4:8).
Sometimes lost in the circumstances surrounding this first murder is a statement by God that reveals one of the secrets of genuineness happiness. When Cain realized that God had rejected his sacrifice, the Bible says that the firstborn son of Adam and Eve “became very angry and his countenance fell” (Gen. 4:5). To this infuriated man God said, “Why are you angry? And why has your countenance fallen? If you do well, will not your countenance be lifted up?” (Gen. 4:6-7a). God connected a lifted countenance (i.e., lifted face, or happy disposition) to a life well lived.
How would you describe your disposition toward life? Would you label it happy, contented, and pleasant? Or do you find that your “countenance has fallen?” It is certainly true that God’s faithful servants will have periods of emotional struggle that are not connected to sin. But it is also true that some of the heartaches we face are due to something faulty in our relationship with God. If you are not faithfully serving the Lord, and you know that you’re not, life can be miserable. On the other hand, no greater joy exists than the joy of knowing that God Almighty finds pleasure and happiness because of who you are.
“Happy are the people whose God is the Lord” (Psa. 144:15). “Happy is he who has the God of Jacob for his help, whose hope is in the Lord his God” (Psa. 146:5). “Whoever trusts in the Lord, happy is he” (Prov. 16:20). “Where there is no revelation, the people cast off restraint; but happy is he who keeps the law” (Prov. 29:18). “For God gives wisdom and knowledge and joy to a man who is good in His sight…” (Ecc. 2:26).
One of the constant desires of mankind is to find genuine happiness. Yet they often look for it in the things that are rooted in self-indulgence: money, drugs, sex, alcohol, power, and the like. But God would have us know what he wanted Cain to know, that the path that leads to true joy – a joy that can even be maintained in the worst of circumstances (Phil. 4:4) – is the path that leads away from self and toward God.