Monday, March 25, 2019

Man's Search For Happiness

"It is neither wealth nor splendor, but tranquility and occupation which give you happiness." - Thomas Jefferson.

Have you ever asked yourself what is true happiness?  If you have, you are not alone.  It is now the focus of numerous ongoing researches.  Ironically, the late Eric Hoff, American social-philosopher who died in 1983 once said, "the search for happiness is one of the chief sources of unhappiness."

The source of eternal happiness is viewed by many to be elusive, however, some have sought and found comfort in many self-help books.  Today the self-help industry is said to be worth more than US$10 Billion dollars in America alone.  In addition to the books, there are seminars, podcasts, workshops, exercises and coaches all directed towards enhancing and developing a happy mind and body.

Some people may look down on others for their pursuit of a happy frame of mind, however, the US Constitution declares it as a right. Over the years, other nations have joined in the search, to the extent, the United Nations has designated March 20 International Day of Happiness.

If so many researchers have studied the subject of happiness for so long why are so many people unhappy?  Iona Goulder in a 2016 article entitled, "Why Trying to be Happy is Making us Anxious," wrote, "The happiness industry tells us that our well-being is a matter of individual effort and personal responsibility.  And subsequently, we've conceived that if we put in enough time and effort, read enough books, use self-improvement apps, meditate and fill in gratitude journals then we can lift ourselves out of any fleeting or perpetually dissatisfied state and into one of pure happiness."  If it were that easy many people would be happier.

Ellen G. White, the author of the book Steps to Christ, eludes to man's inability to find true happiness outside of his Creator when she wrote, "God made man perfectly holy and happy."  She further stated, "It is the transgression of God's law - the law of love - that has brought" and I am paraphrasing here - "unhappiness."  For us to understand what it means to be happy we have to go back in time when it was recorded happiness and balanced existed.

The Bible teaches that in the beginning when the world was created the Creator pronounced that everything  ... was good."  He was happy as He looked around and saw that everything was existing in harmony.  Happiness can not be found within you until you acknowledge that which is evident around you.  The Psalmist David wishing to find this happiness earnestly asked God to create in him a new heart and renew a right spirit in him,"  Psalm 51:10.

In defiance, many try to 'pour new wine into an old sack' only to meet disappointment.  Like the rich young ruler, (Matthew 19:16-24) they see the evidence of contentment, however, because it calls for the sacrifice of self they turn away disappointed and instead seek happiness in pleasure based activities.

Emily Esfahani Smith in her book The Power of Meaning: Crafting a Life That Matters, presents research on a life spent seeking and living a life of pleasure.  This might make you happy in the short run, but without deeper meaning, it could make you miserable over time.

So, what is it that makes people happy in the long run?  Almost everyone agrees that giving of oneself to a cause, (for me it's sharing the love of Christ) and making the sacrifice that is hard.  If the rich young ruler was willing to detach himself from his wealth and was willing to trust the words of Christ he would have found the happiness that he sought after. 

Unfortunately many are still making the same mistake today.  Thinking sporadic short-term pleasures over time is equivalent to long-term fulfillment.  Only those who are willing to make the sacrifice in the long run and those who persevere will become content, fulfilled and happy.

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