“Happiness depends upon ourselves.”
“Happiness is having a large, loving, caring, close-knit family in another city.”
How would you define happiness? Everyone has an opinion: the famous and the infamous, the wealthy and the destitute, ancient philosophers and contemporary self-help gurus. It is a subject that touches every man, woman and child the world over.
The founding fathers of our nation list the “pursuit of happiness” as one of the “inalienable” rights in the Declaration of Independence. Helen Keller offers a thoughtful reflection: “When one door of happiness closes, another opens; but often we look so long at the closed door that we do not see the one which has opened for us,” and others like Oscar Wilde use a bit of sarcasm: “Some cause happiness wherever they go; others whenever they go.”
There is a wide variety of things that bring joy and happiness, and can put a smile on a person’s face: a dazzling sunset, the laughter from children playing, humor that is in good taste, ice cream that tastes good, and even enjoying the happiness of others. But a smile can quickly fade; the enjoyable moment comes and goes. There is a difference between things that makes us feel happy for a while and finding something that offers true, long-lasting joy.
For Christians, there should be no confusion between the two: many simple things in life can bring us temporary joy and happiness; true happiness, however, comes from a loving relationship with our Lord Jesus Christ that continues to deepen throughout life.
While there is no need to belittle the former (be thankful for every moment that brings happiness, if even for a little while), too many of us neglect the source of all goodness and joy in the world: our loving Savior, Helper, and Redeemer. He knows our needs and our desires, our weaknesses and strengths, our passions and our problems.
As we read from the Epistle to the Hebrews (4:14-16), “let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet was without sin. Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”
It takes that confidence in Christ, as well as faith and persistence, to progress from learning about Jesus, to learning from Him; from reading His words in the Bible, to applying them to our lives; from seeing Jesus as a historical figure, to loving and following Him as Lord and Savior of our lives.
From the moment of our baptism, when we receive the Holy Spirit and have become part of the very Body of Christ (the Church), we have within us the divine resources to pursue that loving relationship with Christ, so important to finding true happiness.
By becoming aware of our identity as servants of God, blessed with gifts of the Holy Spirit, we begin to see a divine purpose of life. Our gifts and talents from God are given to us, but they are not for us: they are rightly used for the benefit of others, which glorifies God, and also fills us with joy.
Our good and loving God gives us the means to live a happy, joyous and fulfilling life; but the foundation of that life comes from loving, following and serving Christ, the source of all good things, and true happiness.
~ Rev. Fr. Michael Pallad,
Saint Haralambos Greek Orthodox Church - Peoria, AZ