How can we be happy?

I might be out of touch.  Can anyone tell me how long our nations leaders, thinkers and shakers been talking about measuring the success of the country in terms of general well-being (GWB)? Are GDP and human rights are passée? If so, it will be fascinating to see what government looks like if its objective is to make its people feel content.

It is widely recognised that many people in the UK today lack happiness. We are one of the unhappiest developed nations on earth, ranking 74th out of 143 countries in the world on the happiness league tables. We are a miserable bunch and we need to know the secret of being content.

As a nation we have tried to gain happiness through material possession. A car ad reads; “Whoever said money can’t buy happiness isn’t spending it right.” But of course “whoever” was right, money does not buy happiness. GDP is not a good measure of contentment.

Is fun a measure of contentment? Perhaps we’d be happy if life was more fun. Will the government develop a national vision to have the world’s biggest theme parks, 90-hole golf courses, funnier comedians, more lavish parties, swankier 3D-movie screens, compulsory luxury holidays and a universal diet of only the finest food. We’ve been trying that and fun doesn’t work because there’s always the morning after, the journey home and normal life; work, shopping, cleaning, cooking, gardening, simply existing.

The internet is not short of contenders for the secret of happiness:

  1. The BCC reported in 2007 that “the secret to happiness is accepting that life will bring pain and be miserable”
  2. A Rabbi has said “the secret to happiness is to appreciate what you have.”
  3. A psychology magazine says “the secret of happiness is to surround yourself with family and friends”

Some good suggestions but none of them work all the time.

  1. If you expect to be miserable, you’ll probably be miserable.
  2. You can’t appreciate what you’ve got if you have just been bereaved or have a terminal illness.
  3. And if your family and friends are horrible people, how will they bring you happiness?

So what is the secret to happiness? The Apostle Paul knew the secret of happiness even whilst languishing in a Roman jail:

Philippians 4:11-13 I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do everything through him who gives me strength.

Where does that strength come from? Faith in Jesus who makes his people righteous, precious and lovable in God’s eyes.

Philippians 3:8-11 I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ– the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith. I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead.

That’s the secret of contentment. When all the props we put in place to make life happy are stripped away, Jesus remains steadfast and firm.  Faith in Christ, his gift of righteousness and the power of his resurrection are God’s secret to our contentment.  This is where national GWB will come from and it is staring our politicians in the face.  Will the government, media and educational establishment please stop oppressing the church and instead watch as the good news of Christ brings the people of Britain true and lasting happiness.

About neilrobbie

I am a 6'6" formerly ginger Scot, in a cross cultural marriage to my lovely Londoner wife. We've lived in SE Asia and since 2005, I have served as an Anglican minister in Wolverhampton and West Bromwich.
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