I was hesitant to post anything since it was so late in the week. But I came across this interesting article entitled Laugh and the World Laughs With You: How Happiness Spreads and thought it would be an interesting thing to comment on.
Happiness is something that the world chases after. The American Declaration of Independence proclaims that “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” are the inalienable rights of every human being. (Oddly, it seems as though we often believe that life does does not exist without liberty or happiness.) From finding that true love to blazing down the M6 in that dream car, happiness is what makes our hearts beat. According to this Time magazine article, happiness has a ripple affect spreading to others (they have it down to a science — 25% to a close friend, 10% to that friend’s friend, and 5.6% to that friend’s friend).
Yet happiness is something that Christianity is sometimes critiqued as hindering. How can you be happy in the midst of all these rules and regulations or in a religion that calls you a sinner and utterly depraved? Religion is the source of so much narrow-mindedness that has resulted in nothing but wars and great sadness and division.
Interestingly, the Bible does not seem to ever argue for happiness. In fact, it seems at times to beckon the exact opposite. You have Paul urging his protege to “join with me in suffering for the gospel” (2 Tim. 1:8). You have Jesus who tells would-be followers to “deny himself and take up his cross and follow me” (Mark 8:34-35). In a time with great political and social unrest and religious persecution, the Bible has a theme of not hiding from sadness or running away from the hard life. Instead, we are to consider it pure joy when we face all forms of suffering (James 1:2-8) — what a radical claim!
What the Bible argues is that there is a difference between joy and happiness. Happiness seems conditional — based on the situation or caught by the highs and lows of your close friends. Yet, joy is something very different — it is a mindset or a state of being. Joy is something that is nurtured through a realization of the hope that comes from God through the sacrifice of the Son and the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. No matter what problems life throws at me, I can still be filled with joy.
I thoroughly enjoyed Pastor Bert’s sermon this past Sunday on the topic of joy. It reminded me that the source of our joy must not come from ourselves but from the redemptive work and hope that we have in our God. Not only that, but true joy, like happiness, is also contagious and spreads to others around us. We are not to be fully devoted to a pursuit of God, not a pursuit of happiness. As we nurture our relationships with God and spend time reflecting on his work in our lives and promises in the future, what more can we and others near us be than overjoyed?
— Alex Chow