“Clap along if you feel that happiness is the truth.” With feel-good lyrics like these, no wonder Pharrell Williams’s song “Happy” has gone viral, even in Iran, where fun isn’t always a top priority these days. The police arrested six young adults who were videotaped dancing to the song. But after their release, President Hassan Rouhani tweeted in their defense: “Happiness is our people’s right. We shouldn’t be too hard on behaviors caused by joy” (“In Iran, no room for ‘Happy,’ ” The Christian Science Monitor, May 21).
Joy is a wonderful, natural feeling. I can’t help thinking of the time recorded in the Bible when, at the dedication of the restored wall in Jerusalem, the Jews’ rejoicing was so great that it “was heard even afar off” (Nehemiah 12:43). And in another instance, a man – after being healed of lifelong lameness – went off “walking, and leaping, and praising God” (Acts 3:8). Of course it’s natural to feel happy when something good happens. It’s when things seem bleak that joy feels out of reach.
That’s why the young Iranians’ claim to happiness within a repressive culture can be instructive. To me, their merriment points to an unchanging spiritual fact: Regardless of circumstances, it’s natural for God’s sons and daughters, as the very image of God, to express His qualities, including joy. Ultimately, none of those qualities can be suppressed because they’re part of everyone’s true nature. So not only joy, but every facet of well-being belongs to each of us as God’s children. Even a glimpse of this can bring healing to our lives.
During a stay in a foreign country, I woke up one morning both homesick and ill. Reaching out for comfort, I read this scriptural verse: “It is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure” (Philippians 2:13). Though I knew these words well, for the first time I reasoned that if God was pleased to work within me (we are each the object of His work), I could feel that “good pleasure.” Also, I recalled this instruction from Monitor founder Mary Baker Eddy: “If you wish to be happy, argue with yourself on the side of happiness; take the side you wish to carry, and be careful not to talk on both sides, or to argue stronger for sorrow than for joy. You are the attorney for the case, and will win or lose according to your plea.” (“Christian Healing,” p. 10).
As I followed this counsel willingly, happily, the sadness and sickness left, replaced with joyful health and healthy joy. Mrs. Eddy’s words had encouraged me to go beyond positive thinking to claim my divine right to the God-given joy that’s always mine – and everyone’s. The very thought of that brings happiness.