A popular verse given to single people says that “he who finds a wife finds a good thing”, sometimes translated by “finds happiness” (Proverbs 18:22). Does this mean that to be happy, you have to get married? That is far from the truth!
Like in most french versions of the Bible, the version New American Bible uses the word “happiness” in Proverbs 18:22, telling us that by finding a wife, he also finds happiness. It is as if this verse contains the solution to mankind’s greatest suffering: the quest for happiness. All men on the earth seek happiness. We might think that we need to put all of our energy into finding a wife to find happiness and be happy. If the years go by without having found her, we remain unhappy and depressed because logically, if we don’t have a wife, we don’t have happiness. That is a reflection that far too many single people make that prevents them from fully experiencing all that God has in store for them. Seen in this way, marriage would risk taking the place of God!
But what does this happiness mean; what is it? Several other verses use the word “happiness” by specifying the conditions to benefit from it. All in all, it isn’t just marriage that could bring a good thing into our life or happiness! “Be reconciled with Him, and be at peace; thereby good will come to you” (Job 22:21 NASB). “One who gets wisdom loves his own soul; One who keeps understanding will find good” (Proverbs 19:8 NASB). “Certainly goodness and faithfulness will follow me all the days of my life, and my dwelling will be in the house of the Lord forever” (Psalm 23:6 NASB). (Also see Proverbs 13:21, Proverbs 16:20, Isaiah 48:18, Proverbs 28:10, Acts 20:35.) So we see that finding a wife is not the only way to find happiness. It’s like all of these conditions are different paths to finding happiness or should I say a bit of happiness.
In Hebrew, the word used and translated most often as “good thing” or “happiness” is the word “TOWB”. The original definition of the word refers to all that is good, a good thing, or simply a blessing. Thus, the word “towb” is also translated as: “good, pure, pleasant, excellent…” With all these definitions, it is easier to understand the full depth of the word “towb” which does not only mean happiness in terms of joy or happy feeling but also as grace or favor obtained by God, a benediction (blessing), a pleasant or pleasant thing that brings joy and therefore happiness to a certain extent.
Joy is the fruit of the Spirit, but what about happiness? When a person is born again, the Holy Spirit comes to dwell in their spirit, and He brings the fruit mentioned in Galatians 5:22, one of which is joy. Therefore, a Christian finds in God, through Jesus Christ, by means of the Holy Spirit, joy. It is always available as it is poured out in our minds by the Holy Spirit, and it is even eternal. However, happiness is conditional as seen in the verses cited above. To find happiness (towb), there is always something to do. Happiness is a grace, a blessing often attached to a promise.
Understanding what happiness (towb) is in Proverb 18:22 protects our hearts from the sadness and discouragement of not experiencing what we believe to be happy because we are still single. Marriage is not the only door to happiness, it is just one door among many. If I cannot live the blessing of marriage, this “towb” happiness, there is still a very long list of blessings available for every child of God!