I had a patient’s spouse recently ask me how I keep happy in the midst of daily tragedy. Her husband is dying and her son-in-law’s brother just had died in a car accident. She is feeling her age. She finds tremendous strength in her faith and yet struggles to find happiness during this time. This is a normal challenge that we all will face at one time or another in life. I came across an article that tries to offer ideas as to how we can find happiness during rough times. The author offers a faith based answer, based on his Christian ethic. Yet, the message is one that any G-d believing person can relate to, even if they cannot fully embrace it. Like my patient’s spouse, faith might be the best tool to find contentment even in times that contentment is not apparent.
During an early morning conversation, long before the rooster crowed, I heard these troubling words. “I haven’t been happy with my life in over 10 years.” Here we go again, faced with another perplexing statement, from someone near and dear to my heart, that begs the question, just how do we as individuals define true happiness?
Is it a universal feeling that transcends time and space that we can grasp and hold in our hands? Perhaps it is possibly a spiritual aura we aspire to achieve someday. Or has it become an all elusive dream; now that our economy has tanked, our jobs are in peril or worse yet lost, our retirement savings have taken a major hit and our homes have become more of a liability than an asset?
It’s hard to find happiness in the midst of these storms. I’m there with you, as I ponder the perilous state of my finances, the devastation of my personal relationships and the value of my own self worth; all of which have fared, nary too well in our own current tempest.
Not one to delve into this subject matter alone, I sent out an email to a few close friends, asking them to share with me their own personal definition of happiness.
From my dear, sweet Lee in Oklahoma, I learned: “happiness is contentment gained from the knowledge that I am endeavoring to please God.” And from my senior, spiritual mentor, Paul: “happiness is contentment and peace.” From Charlie who has been my pastor, teacher and friend for over 30 years and has been recently deluged with numerous health issues: “As I think of happiness, I am realizing more and more that it is not something to be sought but developed. The English word happiness is derived from “Happinstance” which is dependent on circumstances. Christian joy is not dependent on what happens. As Paul said “Whatever circumstance I find myself, I have learned to be content. The certainty of His Sovereignty is the source of my sanity. When He is Lord I am secure ”
Dani asked me to look up Aristotle’s definition of happiness because it conveys much of what she believes. In His writings, Aristotle states the following: “The god” or best good is that which is desired for its own sake and for the sake which we desire all other ends or goods. For human beings, eudaemonia is activity of the soul in accordance with arete (excellence, virtue, or what something is good for”). Eudaemonia is characterized by living well and doing well in the affairs of the world. Moral virtue is not the end of life for it can go with inactivity, misery, and unhappiness. Happiness, the end of life, that to which all things aim, is activity in accordance with reason (the arete or peculiar excellence of a person). Happiness is an activity involving both moral and intellectual arete. Some external goods are necessary in order to exercise that activity. But happiness cannot be identified with pleasure, wealth, or honor–unlike what most people think. The good of human beings cannot be answered with the exactitude of a mathematical problem since mathematics starts with general principles and argues to conclusions.”
Webster’s defines happiness as A. Prosperity; B. A state of well being and contentment; C. A pleasurable or satisfying experience. Fortunately, none of these aforementioned definitions mentions anything about stuff and it’s propensity to make us happy. Whew, Thank You Lord!
Not to be outdone, I must interject my definition of happiness as it pertains to me. I believe genuine happiness is created, not by the fullness and fulfillment of what we have in our lives, but through the transcending joy of those with whom we share our lives with.
Hopefully, by separating the chaff from the wheat and reaching our own definition of happiness, we can peruse through all the emotional baggage we’ve been carrying and drop it off at the nearest waste disposal outlet. From henceforth and now on, once we get past these gut wrenching atrocities, that have not only overwhelmed us, but left us, at times, devastated and disillusioned; it’s time to look within ourselves and surrender to the Holy Spirit, the very presence of God in us. An abundance of joy is there for the asking, one that He alone controls. Thankfully, no matter what issues we are currently facing, we have within our grasp, the very wherewithal to discover a personalized happiness that transcends both time and place, regardless of our present circumstance.
The Apostle Paul tells us in Philippians chapter 5 verses 12 and 13: “I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation. Whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do everything through Him who gives me strength.”
Herein lies the key to a personal and lasting happiness. God alone, our ultimate resource, unlocks the door and provides the wisdom and strength necessary to find peace and contentment, as well as our own individual fulfillment. Looking to Him, rather than the world and all its shortcomings shows us in truly amazing color, that He and He alone is enough.
Contentment, I believe, comes when we entrust ourselves, through faith into His loving care, knowing that where we are at this moment in our lives, is just where He wants us to be. No matter the trials, no matter the tests, if we have been perfectly placed, He remains with us, showing us the pathway to eternal and lasting happiness.
Finally by fulfilling one of the greatest commandments to love one another, we exude happiness to the point of overflowing. Loving others and being loved in return is truly priceless. Living in a nation known for it’s over indulgence, loving each other too much is the one indulgence we can readily get away with.
In times of joy, in times of want, in times of need, in times of heartache, relationships formed and bound in love generate happiness; giving love unconditionally to all bonds us to the greater good that God intended for us all. It creates an endless, flowing river of individuals who will always be there for us, to listen, to share, to give, to cry and to love us just as we are, unconditionally.
God has provided all the tools necessary to live a life filled with happiness. Through His Word, prayer, faith, family and friends we can find contentment, we can have peace, and we can weather the storms. For true happiness is found, not in what we have or hope to have; but through His everlasting investment in us and the dividends produced by this investment that we are ready and willing to share.