Happiness in tough economic times

A Christian Science perspective on daily life.

Everyone yearns to be truly happy. There are workshops and books about what it means to be happy and how to attain happiness. But it seems that on any given day, according to the financial markets, the news, or even the weather, the experience of happiness is subject to change. Stressful economic struggles, trials that many are facing today, can test on a daily basis the happiness of a marriage and family in particular.

Sometimes more compassion and patience are demanded than any of us think we have. Spouses may need to relearn what it means to be happily married, and to help their children gain a deeper and more lasting meaning of happiness that is so natural to all of us.

Instead of starting with unhappiness as something to get out of, prayer can help us understand God, our Father-Mother, as the ever-present and only source of happiness. Because each of us is the image and likeness of this all-loving Parent, we can pray to God to reveal more of the natural state of happiness that God gives unconditionally.

No one is being asked just to get by and be happy anyway. The happiness that comes from God includes the confidence that His goodness can always triumph over every trying economic hurdle. The point isn't to happily resign oneself to unmet human needs, but to rejoice in the spiritual fact that God's sole purpose is to show forth constant, tender care of His children in all circumstances and conditions.

This happiness can be deeply felt by asking God to show us how to better express our inherent divine qualities, such as mercifulness, gratitude, and expectancy. Expressing these qualities may make us better listeners, allow us to talk more openly with the whole family about needs instead of wants, or help everyone be more lighthearted.

Mary Baker Eddy, the founder of this newspaper, wrote in "Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures" about what constitutes real happiness: "Unselfish ambition, noble life-motives, and purity, – these constituents of thought, mingling, constitute individually and collectively true happiness, strength, and permanence" (p. 58). She also wrote, "Experience should be the school of virtue, and human happiness should proceed from man's highest nature" (p. 65).

God-given qualities are always available; they never run out and don't depend on the possessions we have or don't have. They allow no room for blame, discouragement, and selfishness. Because happiness comes from Love, it is inexhaustible and consistent. Because it comes from Principle, it has the authority of law. Governed by Principle, Love, happiness is not vulnerable to disappointment, frustration, and delay. We can pray to feel the dominion that Principle gives to happiness while it strips authority from envy, greed, and wrong ambition. Happiness then becomes something we are less likely to pursue because we feel we lack it, and more likely to accept as the spiritual fact of being.

This honest, spiritual approach helps families pray together to know that every man, woman, and child can feel their true God-given contentment, whether they have been struggling for years with lack or are now suddenly facing a substantial loss of resources. Then this contentment will remain more real to us, even when economic struggles have subsided. The willingness to accept this contentment as a powerful law in our lives is the prayer that gives us the flexibility to receive spiritual and practical solutions to individual and collective economic problems. Although we still may have more to do until we feel happy every moment of every day, happiness will feel more natural as we begin today to express a little more grace, humility, or whatever God-given quality is needed.

God's promise, written so beautifully by the Psalmist and still true today, says, "Thou wilt shew me the path of life: in thy presence is fulness of joy; at thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore" (16:11).

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