The hunt for happiness makes people unhappy
The hunt for happiness
Luck. When you hear the word, something else shoots through your head. Maybe a four-leaf clover, horseshoe, piggy (according to the motto "had a pig") or the fairy tale Hans im Glück? We humans understand very different things by happiness. What we have in common is that we are all on the search, even on the hunt for happiness. Or who wishes to be miserable? To clarify, I don't mean happiness in the sense of chance, but more happiness than a successful life.
But can we Christians strive for something as banal as happiness, or isn't that a bit too selfish?
In fact, in over 90 passages in the Bible, mostly people but also peoples are called happy, not only mentioned, but cheered as happy. The Bible uses the formula "to praise happy is ...", so-called Beatitudes. Behind this happy, which is sometimes translated as blessed, stands the blossoming and prospering of a human life.
Our society knows many different happiness concepts, there is happiness research and even an international day of happiness and a ranking list of where the happiest people live (apparently in Finland, Switzerland is at least 6th - as of 2019).
In the Bible, happiness has many facets. "Happy the person who has found wisdom, the person who has gained understanding!" (Prov 3:13). Wisdom and happiness are closely linked in the Bible, happy those who make wise life decisions and do what is good. But the beginning of all wisdom is the fear of the Lord, says Psalm 111:20. Without God there is no real wisdom, we need His teaching and revelation. The Bible makes it clear that without God there is no constant happiness. Man cannot simply create happiness himself, but is dependent on God. Many Beatitudes invite you to follow God and then Jesus in the New Testament, do your will, wait patiently for him and trust him. The scriptures, commandments and prophecies play an important role, life should be aligned with them.
So we can certainly contribute something to our happiness, although in the end it always remains a bit unavailable. One of the keys to true happiness is knowing that while we can contribute to the prosperity of our lives, we are dependent on God. I think living in this knowledge is much more liberated. We don't have to work doggedly on our happiness, but can do our best and trust in God. And if we have to experience suffering, it is not a sign that God and happiness have left us. Because the Bible allows a paradoxical coexistence of happiness and suffering. Negative experiences are not simply ignored in the Bible, they are also part of a successful life. On the one hand because we can experience God differently in these times and on the other hand because we recognize that this world is not yet the end and we can look forward to the final establishment of God's Kingdom. Followers of Christ can even rejoice when they are persecuted for the sake of their faith, because they have received the Holy Spirit as a pledge for eternal life, they know that God stands by his promises and will establish righteousness.
Another aspect of biblical happiness is service to others; knowing that our happiness is not simply our merit can set us free to share that happiness with others. Caring for and showing mercy to the poor and outcast is another important part of biblical happiness. Because this happiness cannot be without consequences, it is not a one-way street.
However, there always remains the tension between the even now and not yet. Biblical happiness begins in the here and now, but also points beyond earthly life.
The happiness of the relationship with God is therefore not dependent on the circumstances and, in contrast to other concepts of happiness, the absence of material or social happiness is not a sign of unhappiness;
Ultimately, however, these Beatitudes are always invitations: Let yourself get involved in this happiness! It is worth it!
With this in mind, I wish you the best of luck in your life!
This is a summary of the thesis of Esther Wittwer.
Esther graduated from IGW and heads the Wattwil Salvation Army in beautiful Toggenburg. The full work can be found here.
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