Is a Happy Life Really Possible?
“IT’S good to be alive!” That is the way a person feels when he is happy. But if we are realistic, we know that life is not always that way. There are problems. These may be so many and so weighty that real happiness seems just a dream. Need it be that way?
2 You know that a happy life is made up of various elements. To enjoy life we need enough to eat, and suitable clothing. We need a home where we can find protection and rest. Yet these are just the basics. Pleasant companionship and good health are also important.
3 But even those who have a measure of these things may still long for true happiness. The type of work a person does, or the conditions under which he must work, may rob him of contentment. Also, in many families there is conflict between husband and wife or between parents and children. Nor can we ignore that over all of us hangs the possibility of sickness or sudden death. Do you believe that it is possible to cope with these and other problems in such a way that we can find true satisfaction? There is reason to believe so. Yet for anyone to enjoy a happy life, he first needs something that not all have—a reason to live.
4 Your life must have meaning if you are to be truly happy. In his book The Transparent Self, Professor S. M. Jourard writes:
“A person lives as long as he experiences his life as having meaning and value and as long as he has something to live for . . . As soon as meaning, value and hope vanish from a person’s experience, he begins to stop living; he begins to die.”
This is now being recognized even in industry. A Canadian report on job absenteeism commented:
“People are looking for meaning in their lives and are no longer satisfied to be dispensable faceless cogs in the machinery of society.”—Atlas World Press Review.
5 This helps to explain why many of the wealthy are not really satisfied. Oh, yes, they eat, sleep, have a family and share some of life’s pleasures and comforts. But they may sense that the same could be said of many animals. There must be more to life.
6 Nor is just long life the answer. Many elderly persons know from experience that a long life without a feeling of accomplishment or of being needed is wearisome. Have you seen that?
7 The lack of an ennobling reason to live is not confined to persons up in years. A survey conducted by Japan’s Daito Bunka University revealed that, of 1,500 high school students, 50 percent of the girls and 34 percent of the boys had already considered suicide. Why? First among the reasons given was “the meaninglessness of life.” And is it much different in Europe, in the Americas and in Africa? The worldwide rise in suicide shows that more and more persons are unhappy and have given up on life.
8 We ourselves may not feel so desperate. We may find that some happiness is possible despite our problems. Still, we cannot escape asking, Does life have real meaning? How can I be lastingly happy?
9 Centuries ago a king surveyed many of life’s pursuits—having a family, gaining wealth, improving one’s education, enjoying good food and constructing impressive buildings. Such things may sound pleasurable. Yet he found that they can also bring much vexation. He asked:
“What does a man come to have for all his hard work and for the striving of his heart with which he is working hard under the sun? For all his days his occupation means pains and vexation, also during the night his heart just does not lie down. This too is mere vanity.”*
10 The vanity of it was underscored later when he described what awaits a person after not many years of life—failing vision, weak arms and legs, decayed or missing teeth, troubled sleep and finally death.*
11 So, even if we feel that there is happiness to be found in life, there are also puzzling questions that touch all of us. Especially so now. Why? Well, editor Vermont Royster commented that in little more than 50 years men have greatly expanded their knowledge and technical ability, but then he adds:
“Here is a curious thing. In the contemplation of man himself, of his dilemmas, of his place in this universe, we are little further along than when time began. We are still left with questions of who we are and why we are and where we are going.”—Science Digest.
12 Of course, one might just try to pass off such questions and ‘enjoy life.’ Much can be said for finding pleasure in life despite its problems. But it is not realistic to live a life of make-believe.* Our lives would have real meaning and the basis for happiness if we could begin to understand, “who we are and why we are and where we are going.” Can we do that?
13 Serious thinkers have often concluded that the answers depend on the fundamental question, ‘Does God exist?’ If there is a God, it is logical that he would know where we came from, why we are here and where we are going. He would also know why evil exists, if it will end, and, if so, how. And he would know what we can do to make our lives happier and more meaningful. So, then, ‘Does God exist?’
Ecclesiastes 2:22, 23, in the Bible.
Compare Ecclesiastes 7:2-6.
What is needed to be happy in life? (1-10)
What questions do we face about life, and how is belief in God involved? (11-13)
[Box on page 7]
‘IS LIFE WORTH LIVING?’
Michele, a Frenchwoman, relates that she deserted home and community “to escape from the hypocritical world and from disappointment over those around me.” Then—
“I came in contact with immorality, drugs and dangerous associates. The police and Interpol were after me. I very nearly became a victim of the white slave trade. Traveling from place to place seeking an explanation for our existence, I contacted different sects. But life did not seem worth living. I felt useless and only thought of dying.”
[Box on page 9]
A PERPLEXED MAN
A man in Japan named Yamamoto relates:
“While preparing for college entrance examinations a few years ago, I spent much of my time contemplating the meaning and purpose of life. The more I studied books on philosophy, the more disappointed I was. After passing my examination I joined a political party. But seeing all the badness around me, I again faced the question, ‘What is the purpose of life?’”
He did not find satisfying answers in the philosophies of men, who clearly have not solved mankind’s problems. Nor did his study of history or his experience with politics indicate that any human government holds the answer. Men have tried all sorts of governments, yet the question regarding the meaning of life persisted. The Japanese man adds:
“I began to live a pleasure-seeking life, doing so half out of despair. But I soon sensed the folly of that. I finally came to the conclusion that the answer to my long-perplexing question regarding the reason or purpose for life depended upon whether God exists or not.”
[Full-page picture on page 4]