A reason to be happy

In Robert Harling's 1987 play "Steel Magnolias," one of the characters delivers the memorable line, "I've been in a bad mood for forty years."

This line, a crowd-pleaser, has inserted itself into popular culture, and is often used to describe chronic depression.

Some US government statistics indicate that up to 5 percent of the American public might be suffering from this disorder. Treatment options run from drugs and therapy to somewhat controversial mind-body programs and relaxation techniques.

At a time when I was feeling pretty low about my job, my salary, my relationships with others, and generally feeling without purpose, prayer turned me around. I found joy, new purpose, and a renewed richness and value in my interpersonal relationships. That uplift from a spiritualized consciousness has stayed with me for almost 20 years now.

It happened because I turned completely to God in prayer. The Bible took on increased importance in my life. It came alive with promise and a dynamism that transformed me.

The source of all this is God, the eternal Father-Mother, who loves us so completely that our whole being is permeated with divine Love. This Love doesn't depend on human circumstances, but enfolds us because of our inseparability from it.

One biblical text that proves to be not only hopeful but healing is Psalm 34. It reads, in part, "This poor man cried, and the Lord heard him, and saved him out of all his troubles. The angel of the Lord encampeth round about them that fear him, and delivereth them.... The Lord is nigh unto them that are of a broken heart; and saveth such as be of a contrite spirit" (6, 7, 18).

This tells me that prayer is a communing with God, an affirmation of His care. It enables us to feel the Divine surrounding us, lifting us from fear and depression.

I love the image of God's angels, His messages to us. They give us a circle of protection that also delivers us. God doesn't drop us in difficult situations to see how we do, and He doesn't walk away from us, leaving us stranded.

God is ever near and ever loving. This Love that is God warms us, encourages us, and guides us in everything we need to do. It helps us take those first steps out of the pit of depression and moves us all the way to a lasting sense of happiness and self-worth. It encourages us to break the cycle of self- depreciation and self-pity to find a joy in doing some activity that blesses others as well as ourselves.

Mary Baker Eddy struggled with adverse circumstances nearly all her life, as any fair biography will show. Conquering limitations of ill health, the second-class status of women in her day, and the betrayal of family and friends, she became a great healer, a world-class writer, and, in her late 80s, the founder of this newspaper.

In a message to her church, she wrote, "Happiness consists in being and in doing good; only what God gives, and what we give ourselves and others through His tenure, confers happiness: conscious worth satisfies the hungry heart, and nothing else can" ("Message to The Mother Church for 1902," p. 17).

This happiness is everyone's divine right. It recognizes God as the source of good, and establishes itself permanently in our hearts.

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