THERE can be times when, looking at life from a global perspective, we find the tragedies of so many of the world's people weighing heavily against the simple joys and pleasures that should come naturally to human experience. And, of course, often there are plenty of hard struggles to contend with close at hand. It's easy to see why the serious concerns we may feel about the human condition could cause us to question whether we really have a legitimate right to be happy. Still, it seems to be written into the hearts of men and women everywhere that happiness is something we all should be able to have. But what can make happiness more than a transient visitor to our lives or an elusive ideal? Ultimately, happiness has to go deeper than a human emotion dependent on external circumstances. If it is reliant primarily on outward things like wealth, good looks, a prestigious career, then when these things are delayed or unrealized or unattainable, so is one's happiness. If, however, happiness comes forth in our lives as the expression of an inherent spiritual quality, it has real staying power. When happiness is sought and found in God, it becomes a grace of character that cannot be destroyed.
I remember reading about some of the early accounts recorded during the first centuries after Christ Jesus' ministry. Those accounts told of Christians being severely persecuted for their faith and yet going forward, refusing to surrender their joy. That would no doubt have been difficult for the onlookers in ancient Rome to make any sense of. I suppose it would be equally difficult for many social observers to fathom today. But Jesus himself, in teaching his followers of his own mission, had said, ``These things have I spoken unto you, that my joy might remain in you, and that your joy might be full.''1
This joy of Christ, Truth, is the spiritual quality which has to be the foundation of our individual happiness if that happiness is to be something we can count on. Something that remains.
Happiness depending on joy may sound like a kind of circular logic, but it really isn't. If God, as Christian Science teaches, is divine Love, Soul, and infinite Life, then everything He creates must express qualities that are like His own nature -- like Love and Soul and infinite Life. God's man, His spiritual reflection, will naturally manifest such qualities as grace, vitality, peace -- and joy. This is what constitutes our own real individuality. And realizing this truth makes people genuinely happy.
Of course, if someone is struggling with feelings of sadness, he or she might wonder just how all of these words about happiness could actually be made practical. Prayer is essential. And so is doing whatever we can, moment by moment, to bring out a little more of those spiritual qualities that give true happiness -- a little more peace and grace, for example, in our conversation, a little more vitality in approaching our daily tasks. Happiness will inevitably break through as we strive to live close to God.
Mary Baker Eddy, who discovered Christian Science, writes: ``Happiness is spiritual, born of Truth and Love. It is unselfish; therefore it cannot exist alone, but requires all mankind to share it.''2 There is healing in this kind of joy expressed.
Yes, it's all right to be happy. In fact, one might say that it is actually part of what every Christian has to be. The world may have great sadness, despair, even tragedy. But if a place seems cold and dark, it surely doesn't need icebergs and thunderclouds. It needs warmth and sunlight. It needs joy -- your joy.
1John 15:11. 2Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, p. 57.
This is a condensed version of an editorial that appeared in the November 28, 1988 (p. 29), issue of the Christian Science Sentinel.