FOR most of us the answer to this question could change from minute to minute. We may be happy right now because we got a big income tax refund. Or maybe we're happily anticipating a weekend's recreation. But we've all found that basing happiness on such things brings us little lasting comfort or real joy. After all, how often is everything just right in our exper-ience? And even when the moment's circumstances seem all right, people usually find a deep yearning for something more.
Jesus certainly confronted the worst human conditions -- lives of sin and long-term illness. Yet in the midst of someone's distress he could say, ``Be of good cheer.''1 What was he seeing that supported such an assurance? And how can we be of good cheer, especially in the midst of the saddest, most challenging experiences?
At one point in my life I had to find the answers to these questions. Certainly if someone had asked me at that time, ``Are you happy?'' I could only have said ``No.'' My marriage was breaking up, and I was far from home and family and longtime friends. I had prayed and prayed but still found each day very difficult to face. My heart yearned for some inner peace and joy.
Every morning I would wake up only to find the heaviness and burden that were there the night before. There just seemed to be no real reason to get out of bed and begin the day. The words of a hymn described my feelings: ``Dark and cheerless is the morn/Uncompanioned, Lord, by thee.''2 There just didn't seem to be any comfort or consolation.
Yet the writer of that hymn reaches out to Christ. The verse continues:
Joyless is the day's return,
Till thy mercy's beams I see; Till they inward light impart, Glad my eyes, and warm my heart.
I recognized this as what I was seeking. I desperately needed to feel God's love, and I mentally turned to Christ, to the always present healing and saving power of God, to help me.
In doing this I was alerted to a statement by Mary Baker Eddy3 from the Christian Science textbook: ``Jesus beheld in Science the perfect man, who appeared to him where sinning mortal man appears to mortals. In this perfect man the Saviour saw God's own likeness, and this correct view of man healed the sick. Thus Jesus taught that the kingdom of God is intact, universal, and that man is pure and holy.''4
``Man is pure and holy''! Looking beyond the human situation, beyond the very circumstances that would cause despair, I saw that I could behold what I really was -- the child of God. And because I knew that God is Spirit, I realized that my true identity could only be spiritual, the pure reflection of God, including His joy and love.
Mrs. Eddy's poem ``Christmas Morn'' also helped me as I continued to reach out for comfort. When I woke up in the morning, and indeed throughout the day, I often found what I needed in its assurance ``Dear Christ, forever here and near.'' And I identified with a later verse in the poem that says, ``Fill us today/With all thou art -- be thou our saint,/Our stay, alway.''5
Gradually the Christ-love filled me with light and peace, and a deep spiritual joy came to me long before the situation changed. Why? Because my joy really wasn't dependent on circumstances but on God. As much as our society is clamoring to make us believe that material things and happenings have the answer to true happiness, they don't. In fact, it's a worldly, materialistic sense of things that underlies our troubles. Jesus tells us, ``In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.''6
As I continued to pray, I progressed from knowing that God loves me to feeling His love. I found a reason to get up every morning and a warm, inner joy that would ``glad my eyes, and warm my heart,'' even before the events of the day began.
I realized more than ever before that I didn't get joy from the things that happened in my life. With the abiding presence of the ``dear Christ, forever here and near,'' I could bring joy to everything I did and those I met. And not only did this Christ-love help me find my way at that time -- its blessing of peace and joy has remained with me.
1Matthew 9:2. 2Christian Science Hymnal, No. 35. 3The Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science. 4Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, pp. 476-477. 5Poems, p. 29. 6John 16:33. DAILY BIBLE VERSE: Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Romans 8:35