The desire for happiness is natural, a law of life itself. While we are all alike in this human aspiration, our individual perceptions and ways of seeking it are singularly different. As it is right to wish to be happy, what then are the conditions upon which its fulfillment depends?
Let us consider Christ’s teachings as it relates to happiness. What were his words concerning this natural human wish? Did he say it is an illusion? Would he have agreed with Goethe that “religion is renunciation”?
“There is nothing of the hardness of Stoicism in Christ’s gospel. It is humane, sympathetic, consoling. Unrest and weariness, the fever of passion and the chill of despair, soul-solitude and heart-trouble, are the very things He comes to cure”. 1
Jesus begins his great discourse of the Beatitudes with the word “blessed” — “happy” is the meaning. Nine times he repeats the word like the urgent chimes of a resounding bell. Christ’s teaching does not entail giving up things merely for the sake of giving up, but always in order to win something better. He came not to destroy, but to fulfill — to fill to the fullest, to replenish life with inward, lasting riches. And as we come to him, we discover four great secrets in this quest: 2
First, it is inward. It does not depend on what we have, but on what we are.
Second, it is not found by direct seeking, but by pursuing the things from which it flows. We must climb the mountain if we would see the vision — we must tune the instrument if we would hear the music.
Third, happiness is not solitary, but social, so we can never have it without sharing it with others.
Fourth, it is the outcome of God’s will for us, and not our will for ourselves; therefore, we find it by surrendering our lives to the dominion of a loving God.
These four aspects reflect the divine doctrine of happiness as Christ taught, which perhaps can be distilled in these words: “Mankind’s chief end is to glorify God and to enjoy Him forever.”
1 Henry Van Dyke, “Joy and Power”, p. 12
2 Ibid., pp. 13-14
Reference: Henry Van Dyke, 1903, “Joy and Power”, http://www.gutenberg.net/1/0/3/9/10395
*** Image: Evening Glory by John Langley