A book released last summer, "Happiness: The Science Behind Your Smile" by Daniel Nettle, points out that while most people rate themselves as moderately to very happy, they also "persist in the belief that they'll be happier in the future."
One reviewer, Peter Smith, commented: "Our tireless drive toward happiness is simply evolution's way of getting us out of bed in the morning. The possibility of good fortune lures us to go on, to achieve, to try harder, but following a period of euphoric adjustment to, say, a job promotion or a new romance, we slip back to our preprogrammed level of contentment. The phenomenon can be traced to 'adaptation' - whereby having achieved their ambitions, human beings unconsciously up the ante" (O, The Oprah Magazine, July).
This made me ask, Am I happy? Or do I believe I'll be happier, healthier, wealthier, more satisfied down the road? I had to be honest. I had big plans that were going to all pay off. Eventually. Soon. Some day. But where does that leave me now?
As someone who finds life-direction in spiritual teachings, especially Jesus' ministry, I realized that Jesus didn't advocate a pursuit of happiness. In fact, he said, "The kingdom of God cometh not with observation: Neither shall they say, Lo here! or, lo there! for, behold, the kingdom of God is within you" (Luke 17:20, 21). So happiness, true satisfaction, is already included in us. Pursuing it outside ourselves would mean setting aside the fact that we already have it.
Jesus knew so keenly our birthright that he went so far as to say that the poor, the mourners, the meek, the starving, and the persecuted are blessed. "The Amplified Bible" translates "blessed" as "happy, to be envied, spiritually prosperous - with life-joy and satisfaction in God's favor and salvation, regardless of their outward conditions" (see Matthew, chapter 5). Another commentator translates "blessed" as "walking forth" (Jean-Yves LeLoup, "The Gospel of Mary"). These concepts reveal God's higher law; that law of Principle, Love, that is above and beyond any circumstance but at the same time present with us.
I had the occasion to prove this a few years ago. A week after 9/11, my husband and I were both fired. We had just moved cross-country and were staying with relatives, and we'd just put down a deposit on an apartment.
The combination of the horror of 9/11, the fact that we had been fired and not paid, and that we couldn't get our deposit back for the apartment, drove us into despair.
We had to rely on the generosity of family members, hoping we wouldn't wear out our welcome, while we started over from scratch.
We realized we had to take a stand for justice and good, even if things seemed bleak. The word "circumstance" literally means "standing around," and we decided we weren't going to be victims - to simply stand around. We decided instead to be blessed, to "walk forth."
Soon we found a beautiful townhouse to rent, even without regular income, and the day we signed the lease, a job opened up for me.
Could it be that we don't claim our full, healthy, rich, happy spiritual inheritance because we think there is a process, a deserving, a timeline, a circumstance on which everything is dependent?
It is so exhilarating to prove right in the face of human circumstance, God's allness - spiritual good - here and now. To move forward in the midst of disaster because the certainty wells in us that we are ever only about our Father's business. We can't help it, we're His children.
The Lord God will come
with strong hand,
and his arm shall rule for him:
behold, his reward is with him,
and his work before him.