When happiness is missing

A Christian Science perspective on daily life.

Oprah recently aired a discussion on that elusive quality of happiness. Everybody wants to be happy, but some are missing out. Some feel there are perfectly sound reasons for not being happy, and might point to something in their own life – a debilitating disease or a loss of a loved one – or something oppressive in the world such as poverty or the threat of terrorism.

On the program, a few people were described as projecting the appearance of happiness while, on the inside, they are anything but happy. On the positive side, some people find happiness in supportive friendships, while others find it by helping others. Most surprising, the expert on the show pointed out that some folks didn't recognize that they were happy already and just needed to realize what they already had.

Is happiness truly possible for all of us? Certainly happiness as a goal existed before the founders of the United States enshrined "the pursuit of happiness" as a national objective. Yet how to have lasting happiness can elude us. Happiness, in order to be lasting, has to be based on something more universal than possessions, friends, or one's profession – although it appears that those whose life purpose is in helping others do have, generally, a good deal of happiness in their lives.

Unhappiness usually comes from feeling deprived of good, that either through bad choices, circumstances, disease, or an accident, one is missing the components necessary to have a happy life. How can we find that missing "something"? Maybe what's needed is to change the basis of our thinking, away from ourselves. So where best to turn? The Bible provides an answer in this passage from the Old Testament prophet Jeremiah: "I will give them an heart to know me, that I am the Lord: and they shall be my people, and I will be their God: for they shall return unto me with their whole heart" (24:7).

When we turn to God with our "whole heart," there must be good results, and in fact the same prophet records, "I will never stop doing good to them.… I will rejoice in doing them good and will assuredly plant them in this land with all my heart and soul" (32:40, 41, New International Version).

Knowing that the infinite, all-powerful God rejoices in doing us good is a spiritual basis for happiness. Turning to God and acknowledging Him bring security and a sense of purpose and self-worth, no matter what circumstances we might find ourselves in. This in turn leads to choices and decisions that should enhance our happiness. These decisions might involve college courses, career paths, or just whom to spend time with during free time. If God is the center of our thoughts, we'll be in harmony with Him. This means that we'll be so tuned in to God that we'll be guided to make decisions that bless others as well as ourselves. And that seems a solid basis for happiness.

The Bible often describes God in terms of invariable law, an absolute standard of Principle that includes other biblical names for Him such as Love or Truth. Making the invariable Principle our center is not an operation of chilly intellect or special uprightness. Rather, it's a joyous acknowledgment that we're forever safe in this Principle, or divine Love. All of us are God's ever-good, ever-happy ideas. Mary Baker Eddy, who founded the Monitor, wrote in her major work, "Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures," "For true happiness, man must harmonize with his Principle, divine Love …" (p. 337).

This is something we can do. Harmonizing with Principle isn't a self-righteous activity, but one of love. It can be done right where we are, even in the middle of what appears to be crushing sadness. We can lift up our heart to God to see Him as our support. This means leaning on God and not our possessions, a salary, or the good opinions of others – all of which can be taken away. It makes happiness a God-given right, something that is part of our very being, and therefore always attainable.

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