What does it mean to be happy? Does God want us to be happy and, if so, why am I experiencing this situation or problem? How often we have heard these questions or thought about them ourselves. We tend to view happiness as solely depending on the circumstances that happen to us from day to day. If this be the case, then we are probably going to have much unhappiness in any given day.
There are many misconceptions about happiness. From a recent survey the top most common statements given are listed below, although many more could be added.
- Money can buy happiness.
- Youth affords us more happiness than our older years.
- Living in a certain neighborhood or climate guarantees more happiness.
- The more educated we are, the happier we will be.
We know these are not necessarily going to bring happiness. What is more accurate and has been the result of other studies is that religion and faith play a major role in defining our happiness. Jesus began teaching the crowds gathered on the mountainside and his words confirm the fact that God definitely wants us to be happy. He tells the people: Happy the poor in spirit for they know their need for true happiness. The Kingdom of Heaven is theirs. Those who mourn will be blessed and comforted. Those who do what God requires of them will be happy and satisfied. From these and many other teachings of Jesus, we learn that happiness is something that emanates from within, not what is controlled from the outside.
What are those inside feelings that can make us happy? There’s a short story about happiness that sheds light on this question.
There was a little boy who believed that he would be happy if he could meet God. He knew it was a long trip to where God lived, so he packed his suitcase with Twinkies and root beer and started his journey. When he had gone about three blocks he met an old woman sitting in the park just staring at some pigeons. The boy sat down next to her and opened his suitcase. He was about to take a drink of root beer when he noticed the lady looked hungry, so he offered her a Twinkie. She gratefully accepted it and smiled at him. Her smile was so beautiful that the boy wanted to see it again, so he offered her some root beer. Once again she smiled at him. The boy was delighted! They sat there quite a while eating and smiling, but never said a word. As it grew late the boy got up to leave. But before he had gone more than a few steps he turned around, ran back to the woman and gave her a big hug. She gave him her biggest smile ever. When the boy opened the door to his home , his mother was surprised by the look of happiness on his face. She asked him, “What did you do today that made you so happy?” He replied, “I had lunch with God!” But before his mother could respond he added, “You know what? She’s got the most beautiful smile I’ve ever seen!” Meanwhile, the old woman, also radiant with joy returned to her home. Her son was stunned by the look of happiness on her face and asked, “Mother, what did you do today that made you so happy? She replied, “I ate Twinkies in the park with God and he was younger than I thought.”
We can see three important things from this story First, the most simple things can bring the most happiness. Happiness is real when it comes from within. And third, sharing our happiness will make others smile and feel God. Our God is a happy God…and we are called to be godlike!
Interestingly, there is no right to happiness mentioned in Scripture. Jesus never said, “Come, follow me and I will make you happy.” He said, “Come follow me and take up your cross!” But we say in return, “If only God takes care of my situation, problem or gives me what I want, then God can prove he wants me to be happy. So we think! But maybe it’s not God’s will for us to have that something or to take us out of a certain situation. Maybe God sees some adjustment we need to make, some patience we need to develop, some kindness we need to produce, forgiveness we need to offer first. But often we are blinded and all we can see is our right to be happy – right now! Take a closer look at the saints and discover that God often interrupted their happiness on this earth in order to fulfill his plans for their lives.
Abraham Lincoln believed, “Most folks are as happy as they make up their minds to be.” Groucho Marx said, “I, not happiness, have the power to make myself happy or unhappy today. I can choose what it shall be. Yesterday is gone, tomorrow hasn’t arrived yet. I have just one day, today, and I’m going to be happy in it.” We’re all created by God for a certain mission, a mission that is not an easy one, but with God’s guidance and our cooperation, we can find true happiness in carrying it out in this life. A spiritual author wrote: “Let us learn to recognize the conditions for real happiness that are present within us and around us. Live with the premise that happiness is not having what we want, but appreciating what we have and sharing it!”
Sister Lauretta Leipzig