How to Find Real Happiness
A BUDDHIST religious leader, the Dalai Lama, said: “I believe that the very purpose of our life is to seek happiness.” He then explained that he believed that happiness can be achieved by training, or disciplining, the mind and the heart. “A mind,” he said, “is all the basic equipment we need to achieve complete happiness.” Belief in God is unnecessary, he maintains.a
In contrast, consider Jesus, who had strong faith in God and whose teachings have affected hundreds of millions of people over the centuries. Jesus was interested in human happiness. He began his well-known Sermon on the Mount with nine beatitudes—nine expressions that begin: “Happy are . . .” (Matthew 5:1-12) In that same sermon, he taught his listeners to examine, purify, and discipline their minds and hearts—replacing violent, immoral, and selfish thoughts with peaceful, clean, and loving thoughts. (Matthew 5:21, 22, 27, 28; 6:19-21) As one of his disciples later exhorted, we should “continue considering” things that are ‘true, of serious concern, righteous, chaste, lovable, well spoken of, virtuous, and praiseworthy.’—Philippians 4:8.
Jesus knew that true happiness involves relationships with others. We humans are gregarious by nature, so we cannot be truly happy if we isolate ourselves or if we are constantly in conflict with those around us. We can be happy only if we feel loved and if we love others. Fundamental to such love, Jesus taught, is our relationship with God. Here especially, Jesus’ teaching departs from that of the Dalai Lama, for Jesus taught that humans cannot be truly happy independent of God. Why is that so?—Matthew 4:4; 22:37-39.
Think of Your Spiritual Needs
One of the beatitudes is: “Happy are those conscious of their spiritual need.” (Matthew 5:3) Why did Jesus say this? Because, unlike animals, we have spiritual needs. Created in God’s image, we can to a degree cultivate divine attributes, such as love, justice, mercy, and wisdom. (Genesis 1:27; Micah 6:8; 1 John 4:8) Our spiritual needs include the need to have meaning in our life.
How can we satisfy such spiritual needs? Not through transcendental meditation or mere introspection. Rather, Jesus said: “Man must live, not on bread alone, but on every utterance coming forth through Jehovah’s mouth.” (Matthew 4:4) Notice, Jesus said that God is the source of “every utterance” vital to our life. Some questions only God can help us to answer. That insight is especially timely today, given the proliferation of theories about life’s purpose and the way to happiness. Bookstores devote entire sections to works that promise readers health, wealth, and happiness. Internet sites dealing specifically with happiness have been set up.
Nevertheless, human thinking in these areas is often misguided. It tends to play to selfish desires or to the ego. It is based on limited knowledge and experience, and quite often it rests on false premises. For instance, a growing trend among writers of self-help books is to base their ideas on the theory of “evolutionary psychology,” which assumes that human emotions are rooted in our supposed animal ancestry. The truth is, any effort to find happiness that is based on a theory that ignores the role of our Creator cannot be valid and will ultimately lead to disappointment. An ancient prophet said: “The wise ones have become ashamed. . . . Look! They have rejected the very word of Jehovah, and what wisdom do they have?”—Jeremiah 8:9.
Jehovah God knows our makeup and what will make us truly happy. He knows why he put man on the earth and what the future holds, and he shares that information with us in the Bible. What he reveals in that inspired book strikes a responsive chord in rightly disposed individuals and inspires happiness. (Luke 10:21; John 8:32) This was the case with two of Jesus’ disciples. They were disconsolate following his death. But after learning from the mouth of the resurrected Jesus himself about his role in God’s purpose for mankind’s salvation, they said: “Were not our hearts burning as he was speaking to us on the road, as he was fully opening up the Scriptures to us?”—Luke 24:32.
Such joy intensifies when we allow Bible truth to guide our life. In this regard, happiness can be likened to a rainbow. It appears when conditions are favorable, but it becomes more brilliant—even becoming a double rainbow—when conditions are perfect. Let us now look at a few examples of how the application of Bible teachings can make for greater happiness.
Keep Your Life Simple
First, look at Jesus’ counsel on the matter of wealth. After counseling against making the pursuit of wealth the main thing in life, he made a striking expression. He said: “If, then, your eye is simple, your whole body will be bright.” (Matthew 6:19-22) Essentially, he said that if we avidly pursue wealth, power, or any of the other goals people set for themselves, we will lose out on more important things. After all, as Jesus said on another occasion, “even when a person has an abundance his life does not result from the things he possesses.” (Luke 12:15) If we put first the things that are really important, such as our relationship with God, family concerns, and other related matters, then our “eye” will be “simple,” uncluttered.
Notice, Jesus was not advocating asceticism or extreme self-denial. After all, Jesus himself was not an ascetic. (Matthew 11:19; John 2:1-11) Rather, he taught that those who view life as little more than an opportunity to amass wealth essentially miss out on life.
Commenting on some who became very wealthy early in life, a psychotherapist in San Francisco, U.S.A., said that for them money is “the root of stress and confusion.” These people, he added, “buy two or three houses, a car, spend money on stuff. And when that hasn’t done it for them [that is, made them happy], they become depressed, empty and uncertain about what to do with their lives.” In contrast, those who heed Jesus’ advice to lead a simpler life materially and to leave room for spiritual things are far more likely to find real happiness.
Tom, a builder living in Hawaii, volunteered to help build places of worship on Pacific islands where people have little materially. Tom noticed something about these humble people. He said: “My Christian brothers and sisters in these islands were truly happy. They helped me see more clearly that money and possessions are not the secret to happiness.” He also observed the volunteers who worked with him in the islands and noticed how contented they were. “They could have made a lot of money,” said Tom. “But they chose to keep spiritual things in first place and maintain a simple life-style.” Moved by these examples, Tom simplified his own life so that he could devote more time to his family and to spiritual pursuits—a move he has never regretted.
Happiness and Self-Worth
Vital to happiness is a feeling of personal dignity, or self-worth. Because of human imperfection and the resulting weaknesses, some have a negative view of themselves, and for many, such feelings date from childhood. It may be hard to overcome entrenched feelings, but it can be done. The solution lies in applying God’s Word.
The Bible explains how the Creator feels about us. Is not his view more important than that of any human—even our own? The very personification of love, God looks at us without prejudice or malice. He sees us for what we are, as well as for what we can be. (1 Samuel 16:7; 1 John 4:8) In fact, he views those wanting to please him as precious, yes, desirable, whatever their imperfections.—Daniel 9:23; Haggai 2:7.
Of course, God does not ignore our weaknesses and any sins we commit. He expects us to try hard to do what is right, and he supports us when we do so. (Luke 13:24) Still, the Bible says: “As a father shows mercy to his sons, Jehovah has shown mercy to those fearing him.” It also says: “If errors were what you watch, O Jah, O Jehovah, who could stand? For there is the true forgiveness with you, in order that you may be feared.”—Psalm 103:13; 130:3, 4.
So learn to see yourself through God’s eyes. Knowing that he views those who love him as desirable and that he has confidence in them—even though they may view themselves as unworthy—can do much to enhance a person’s happiness.—1 John 3:19, 20.
Hope—Vital to Happiness
A recently promoted concept dubbed positive psychology holds that optimism, cultivated by positive thinking and by focusing on one’s personal strengths, can lead to happiness. Few would deny that an optimistic view of life and of the future adds to our happiness. However, such optimism has to be based on fact, not just on wishful thinking. Besides, no amount of optimism or positive thinking will eliminate war, starvation, disease, pollution, old age, sickness, or death—things that rob so many of their happiness. Nonetheless, optimism does have its place.
Interestingly, the Bible does not use the word optimism; it uses a more powerful word—hope. Vine’s Complete Expository Dictionary defines “hope” as used in the Bible as “favorable and confident expectation, . . . the happy anticipation of good.” In Bible usage, hope is more than an optimistic view of a situation. It also refers to the thing upon which one’s hope is fixed. (Ephesians 4:4; 1 Peter 1:3) The Christian hope, for instance, is that all the undesirable things mentioned in the preceding paragraph will soon be done away with. (Psalm 37:9-11, 29) But it embraces more.
Christians look forward to the time when faithful humans will attain to perfect life on a paradise earth. (Luke 23:42, 43) Enlarging on that hope, Revelation 21:3, 4 says: “Look! The tent of God is with mankind, and he will reside with them, and they will be his peoples. . . . And he will wipe out every tear from their eyes, and death will be no more, neither will mourning nor outcry nor pain be anymore. The former things have passed away.”
Anyone who expects to have such a future has every reason to be happy, even if his present circumstances leave much to be desired. (James 1:12) So why not investigate the Bible and find out why you can believe it. Strengthen your hope by spending time each day reading the Bible. Doing so will enrich you spiritually, help you avoid the things that rob people of happiness, and build up your sense of contentment. Yes, the ultimate secret to real happiness is doing the will of God. (Ecclesiastes 12:13) A life built on obeying the Bible’s precepts is a happy life, for Jesus said: “Happy are those hearing the word of God and keeping it!”—Luke 11:28.
a Belief in God is not necessary for a Buddhist.
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Happiness cannot be found by amassing wealth, isolating oneself, or trusting in man’s limited knowledge
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A life based on obeying God’s Word is a happy life
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The Christian hope makes a person happy