The relentless pursuit of happiness so prevalent today may not actually be making us happy. Instead, perhaps a sense of purpose is what would truly bring us satisfaction. That’s what an opinion article in The Boston Globe suggested. It is called “Looking for happiness? Try purpose instead” (Amy Cuddy, May 16, 2019).
This message resonated with me. How exactly would we even define happiness? And is there anything we can do that would really guarantee we would be permanently happy?
Finding deep, spiritual meaning in our lives leads to joy that endures, and it can never be taken from us. That doesn’t mean we can’t find a sense of purpose in a particular career or relationship, but pinning our hopes for happiness on any particular set of circumstances can have its pitfalls, as does defining happiness by things we might see in social media posts that make it seem unattainable for us no matter how fervently we pursue it.
In my work as a Christian Science practitioner, engaged in the full-time ministry of Christian Science healing, I have seen how it’s a totally different view of purpose and joy that brings the most lasting satisfaction. Sometimes people contact me for help with challenges such as depression, weight and body image issues, or unhealthy relationship patterns. Often the solution involves a clarity about one’s purpose that goes beyond any particular set of circumstances. And when one discovers this clarity, healing comes in those other areas too.
This healing clarity comes from a better understanding of our true nature as the children of God, whom the Bible describes as Love. How would a loving creator design something that could be devoid of joy? Christian Science explains that God is utterly pure goodness. Each of us as God’s creation reflects all that God is, every aspect of the goodness of God, which naturally encompasses the quality of true and enduring joy.
So in a spiritual sense, joy is an inherent quality within each of us, part of our divinely created identity, not defined or determined by material circumstances. Each of us has the ability to experience the freedom and empowerment this joy brings because its source is infinite, therefore inexhaustible. And this joy is inextricably linked to living our true purpose – reflecting God’s love and goodness.
I look to Jesus as the ideal example of a purposeful life to emulate. He once said, “For this purpose I was born and for this purpose I have come into the world – to bear witness to the truth” (John 18:37, English Standard Version). And in another verse: “My purpose is to give them a rich and satisfying life” (John 10:10, New Living Translation). We can each accept our God-given purpose to bear witness to divine Truth, God, and express God, Love, in a way that helps others find a more genuine satisfaction. And this will surely give us joy.
It was through the eternal Christ, the expression of God’s nature that empowered him, that Jesus was able to give others “a rich and satisfying life.” That included experiencing healing of physical and mental illness, which brought many people great joy. Yet Jesus was ridiculed by many of the elites of his day, and many circumstances of his life would not have looked impressive on a social media feed, despite his great accomplishments. He encountered a stream of dire situations that would leave anyone anything but happy.
But he was clear that no one could take away his joy (see John 16:22), because his joy was in understanding his God-given purpose and fulfilling it. And ultimately he prevailed over all he faced. From this basis, leaning on his divine source and the truth he understood, he was able to benefit others in profound ways, restoring them to life and health in even the most hopeless of situations.
The Christ that enabled Jesus to do what he did enables us to follow his example today. A message shared by Mary Baker Eddy, founder of the Monitor, speaks to this sense of true purpose. In a letter to members of a branch Church of Christ, Scientist, who had given a thoughtful financial gift to another branch church, she encouraged them to respond to the question “What am I?” in this way: “I am able to impart truth, health, and happiness, and this is my rock of salvation and my reason for existing” (“The First Church of Christ, Scientist, and Miscellany,” p. 165).
Regardless of conditions we’re currently dealing with or what society’s opinion of one’s status or profession may be, each of us can strive to “impart truth, health, and happiness” to those we encounter and to support them in living rich and satisfying lives. That is a lasting foundation on which to build the true happiness that is an enduring sense of purpose and joy.