Health and Happiness—How Can You Find Them?
MAN has long recognized a close link between health and happiness. Hippocrates, thought of as “the father of medicine,” stated: “A wise man should consider that health is the greatest of human blessings.” German philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer noted: “The two foes of human happiness are pain and boredom.”
In the book Anatomy of an Illness as Perceived by the Patient, Norman Cousins related his experience in using laughter to combat his potentially life-threatening illness. He attributed his recovery at least partially to the belly laughs he enjoyed while watching comedy films. Reputable doctors have begun to investigate a possible benefit of certain chemicals, called endorphins, that are released in the body when we laugh. We can thus see the wisdom of the inspired proverb: “A heart that is joyful does good as a curer.”—Proverbs 17:22.
Yet, paradoxically, researchers have found that good health does not necessarily guarantee happiness, for many healthy people are unhappy. Research based on questionnaire and interview responses of well over 100,000 people led Jonathan Freedman to the unexpected conclusion that over 50 percent of the people who were unhappy with their lives were basically healthy.
Health and Happiness—In a Word
Where, then, are we to look for the elusive combination of health and happiness? An interesting insight was given centuries ago by Confucius: “Good government obtains when those who are near are made happy, and those who are far off are attracted.” Closer to our time, statesman Thomas Jefferson proclaimed that the only aim of government is “to secure the greatest degree of happiness possible to the general mass of those associated under it.”
In fact, close inspection reveals that the ultimate answer to mankind’s quest for health and happiness does indeed focus on one thing—government.
Through the ages, humans have looked there—to government—for their happiness. For example, the United States Declaration of Independence contains these famous words: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” Note that the government there envisioned promised its subjects only the right to pursue happiness. As far as health is concerned, many governments commendably have promoted programs to improve the health of their citizens. Still, general good health for the majority has proved elusive.
Yet what of a government that promises to provide even more? What if it promises not only the pursuit of happiness but happiness itself? And what if it promises, not health insurance, but good health itself? Would you not rejoice that here lies the ultimate key to mankind’s quest for health and happiness?
Many today might think this is an unrealistic dream, yet such a government is actually foretold and described in some detail. We can find the reliable information in the Holy Bible, and the government is God’s Messianic Kingdom.
The Kingdom, or Government, of God
The Bible speaks often of “the kingdom of God.” Just what is it? Webster’s New World Dictionary of the American Language defines “kingdom” as “a government or country headed by a king or queen.” Put simply, God’s Kingdom is a government, a royal government headed by God’s anointed Son and King, Jesus Christ. Just how important is this government in God’s purpose? Let Jesus’ words answer: “Keep on, then, seeking first the kingdom . . . This good news of the kingdom will be preached in all the inhabited earth . . . I must declare the good news of the kingdom of God, because for this I was sent forth. . . . The kingdom of God is being declared as good news, and every sort of person is pressing forward toward it.”—Matthew 6:33; 24:14; Luke 4:43; 16:16.
The word “kingdom” is used over a hundred times in the Gospel accounts of Jesus’ life, sometimes very specifically in connection with health and happiness. Note Matthew 9:35: “Jesus set out on a tour of all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues and preaching the good news of the kingdom and curing every sort of disease and every sort of infirmity.” Although Jesus linked the bringing of good health with his teaching about the Kingdom, we should note that his curing of illnesses was incidental to his preaching and teaching. He was known as “The Teacher,” not “The Healer.” (Matthew 26:18; Mark 14:14; John 1:38) He did not concentrate principally on healing people or providing care for the sick. His primary concern was always the Kingdom. By caring for people’s ills, he showed his great compassion and manifested that he did have divine backing.
The healings by Jesus also served as a preview of the restoration of human health that he will accomplish when God’s Kingdom exercises full control of the earth. This is reinforced by the vision that is described at Revelation 22:1, 2: “He showed me a river of water of life, clear as crystal, flowing out from the throne of God and of the Lamb down the middle of its broad way. And on this side of the river and on that side there were trees of life producing twelve crops of fruit, yielding their fruits each month. And the leaves of the trees were for the curing of the nations.”
But where will it be possible for us to enjoy this? It might seem too good to expect such a marvelous healing to occur on earth. Recall, however, Jesus’ words that you yourself may have spoken in prayer: “Let your kingdom come. Let your will take place, as in heaven, also upon earth.”—Matthew 6:10.
In God’s Messianic Kingdom, then, lies our real, our reliable, hope for health and happiness in the future. A question remains, though.
Can We Enjoy Health and Happiness Now?
Even now, our following Bible principles may enable us to enjoy a greater measure of health, along with increased happiness. As has frequently been pointed out in the pages of this journal, those who apply the Bible in their daily lives usually are protected from the health problems resulting from sexual immorality, smoking, overdrinking, and drug abuse. They also experience the benefits of a calmer life and better relations with relatives and others.
We have already seen, though, that having good health does not necessarily result in lasting happiness. What would it take for you to enjoy a larger measure of happiness?
In the research mentioned earlier, Jonathan Freedman considered that question in depth. He looked at such factors as “Love and Sex,” “Youth and Age,” “Income and Education,” even “Town and Country.” It may interest you to know that he found that these factors had little effect on one’s basic happiness. For example, citing instances of people who had a lot of material things but were still unhappy, he concluded: “We have seen that, somewhat surprisingly, neither income nor education seems to play a major role in happiness.”
His conclusions echoed a wise writer of the Bible, the apostle Paul, who said: “I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content.” (Philippians 4:11, King James Version) Recall, too, Jesus’ words: “Keep your eyes open and guard against every sort of covetousness, because even when a person has an abundance his life does not result from the things he possesses.”—Luke 12:15.
Indeed, Professor Freedman found this: “Time after time, as we look at the statements by unhappy people who appear to have everything, we find them commenting that their lives lack meaning and direction.” He added: “I hesitate to make too much of this, but it does appear that spiritual values color one’s feelings about reality, while a lack of them to some extent poisons or detracts from everything else.”
In our day we see evidence of the truth of these observations. Look around you. Do you not see almost all people—some with little, some with much—chasing happiness but not enjoying much of it? True, some have given up and live in quiet desperation, yet many live their lives as if on a treadmill, chasing, but never quite catching, what they pursue. Some marry to acquire happiness, even while their neighbor is divorcing for the same reason. Others burn themselves out with work, while still others drop out for long and perhaps expensive vacations. All seek the same elusive end, to be healthy and happy. Do they find it? Have you found it?
Your Health, Your Happiness
The fact is, you can have a large measure of health and happiness now. How so?
Certainly it is wise to try to take care of your health in a balanced way, such as by applying the Bible’s practical counsel. It will also help to be realistic. That involves recognizing that sickness may come to our imperfect bodies, yet we will not be crushed when that occurs. This may require further effort to maintain an optimistic outlook as we focus on the promise of perfect health in the new world to come.
To see if you have a reasonable degree of happiness now, ask yourself these questions: 1. Am I essentially in control of my own life? 2. Am I basically at peace with myself and those around me? 3. Am I generally pleased with my life’s accomplishments as weighed in the light of the Bible? 4. Are my family and I enjoying being able to serve God?
To a large extent, the choice is ours. Many of us may basically be healthy, and we have the option to be happy too. But we must have spiritual goals and then work to achieve them. Remember Jesus’ words: “Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” (Matthew 6:21) And we have a Bible-based reason to look forward to even greater health and happiness under the perfect rule of the Messianic Kingdom. Then complete health and happiness can be ours.
[Picture on page 7]
Happy people are glad to share with others their hope for perfect health