A Sure Guide to Happiness
“THE pursuit of Happiness” is the right of all men. That was the view of the framers of the Declaration of Independence of the United States of America. But pursuing a goal is not the same as reaching it. While many young people pursue careers in entertainment and sports, how many do you know who have actually attained the success they so desired? “You probably won’t make it,” says one famous singer familiar with the struggle to become a successful musician.
If you have felt that way about finding happiness, there is good reason for you to take heart. If you pursue happiness in the right way, you will attain it. Why can that be said? The preceding article made reference to “the happy God,” Jehovah. (1 Timothy 1:11) In the Bible, God provides guidance so that your pursuit of happiness does not lead to a dead-end of disappointment. Jehovah can help you to overcome common causes for sadness. As an example, consider the comfort he offers to you when someone you love dies.
When a Loved One Dies
Can anything good be said about death? Death tears parents from children and children from parents. It separates close friends and brings insecurity to close-knit communities. When death strikes, a happy family may be overwhelmed with sadness.
No one needs to tell you that death is a tragedy. Some people, however, deny that reality and paint death as a blessing. Note what happened after Hurricane Katrina struck the Gulf of Mexico in August 2005. At the funeral of one victim, the minister said: “Katrina did not kill him. God called him home.” At another time, a well-meaning hospital clerk told a daughter not to worry, for God had taken her mother to heaven. The daughter cried: “Why, why did he have to take her from me?”
Clearly, such mistaken notions about the dead often fail to console the bereaved. Why? Because these ideas do not represent the truth about death. Even worse, they portray God as snatching loved ones from family and friends by horrific, painful means. Instead of being a source of comfort, God is made to appear as a villain in the tragedy of death. But God’s Word states the truth about death.
The Bible calls death an enemy. It likens death to a king who has ruled mankind. (Romans 5:17; 1 Corinthians 15:26) Death is an adversary of such power that no human can resist it, and every loved one who dies is just another of death’s uncountable victims. This Bible truth well accounts for the grief and helplessness we feel when a loved one dies. It confirms that those feelings are normal. Nevertheless, does God use the enemy death to carry off our loved ones to heaven? Let the Bible answer that question.
Ecclesiastes 9:5, 10 states: “As for the dead, they are conscious of nothing at all . . . There is no work nor devising nor knowledge nor wisdom in Sheol, the place to which you are going.” What is Sheol? It is the common grave of mankind to which humans go when they die. In the grave the dead are completely inactive, without movement, sensation, or thought of any kind. They are in what can be likened to a deep sleep.* The Bible thus makes it clear that God does not take our dead loved ones to be with him in heaven. The effects of death have left them lifeless in the grave.
Jesus confirmed this truth after his friend Lazarus died. Jesus likened death to sleep. If Lazarus had gone to heaven to be with Almighty God, Jesus’ bringing him back to earth eventually to die again would have been no kindness. The inspired account states that at the burial place, Jesus said in a loud voice: “Lazarus, come on out!” The Bible continues: “The man that had been dead came out.” Lazarus began life anew. Jesus knew that Lazarus had never left the earth. He had been lying lifeless in a tomb.—John 11:11-14, 34, 38-44.
This incident recorded in the Bible helps us to understand that death is not a means that God uses to transfer humans from earth to heaven. We can thus be drawn to God, knowing that he has not caused our sadness. We can also trust that he fully grasps the sorrow and damage that the enemy death causes us. And the Bible truth about the condition of the dead proves that the dead do not suffer in hellfire or purgatory but are lifeless in the grave. Thus, the memory of our loved ones need not be stained with revulsion toward God or with fear of the unknown. Moreover, in the Bible, Jehovah offers us additional comfort.
Hope Leads to Happiness
The scriptures we have discussed point to hope, an essential part of true happiness. The word “hope” as used in the Bible implies the confident expectation of good. To see how hope can lead to happiness now, let us return to the account of Jesus’ resurrection of Lazarus.
There are at least two reasons why Jesus performed that miracle. One was to remove the sadness of Martha, Mary, and grieving friends. Once again, they could enjoy the company of their loved one. But Jesus mentioned to Martha a second, more important, reason: “Did I not tell you that if you would believe you would see the glory of God?” (John 11:40) The New Testament in Modern English, by J. B. Phillips, renders the last phrase “the wonder of what God can do.” In giving life back to Lazarus, Jesus gave a preview of what Jehovah God can and will do in the future. Here are more details about this “wonder of what God can do.”
At John 5:28, 29, Jesus said: “Do not marvel at this, because the hour is coming in which all those in the memorial tombs will hear his voice and come out.” This means that all the dead in Sheol, our loved ones included, will come back to life. Acts 24:15 reveals more about this grand event, stating: “There is going to be a resurrection of both the righteous and the unrighteous.” So even “the unrighteous,” many individuals who did not know and serve Jehovah, will get a future opportunity to gain God’s favor.
Where will this resurrection occur? Psalm 37:29 states: “The righteous themselves will possess the earth, and they will reside forever upon it.” Think of what that means! Families and friends torn apart by death will again meet here on earth. As you think of enjoying good times with those whose companionship you once treasured, it is reasonable for your heart to swell with happiness.
Jehovah Wants You to Be Happy
We have considered two ways in which Jehovah can bolster your happiness despite your problems. First, through the Bible, he provides knowledge and guidance to help you face adversities successfully. Besides helping us cope with the sorrow of death, Bible counsel can also help us to deal with economic and health problems. It can give you strength to endure social injustice and political turmoil. And if you apply its guidance in your life, it can help you to deal with other personal problems.
Second, by studying the Bible, you acquire a hope that far surpasses anything human society offers. The resurrection of friends and family is part of the hope that the Bible sets out. Revelation 21:3, 4 gives more details: “God himself will be with [mankind]. 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.” This means that any source of sadness in your life will soon be gone forever. What the Bible promises will come true, and you can enjoy its fulfillment. Just knowing that better times are ahead gives relief. Knowing that you do not face suffering indefinitely after death is a reason to be happy.
To illustrate: Several years ago Maria watched her husband die a painful death from cancer. Her tears had scarcely dried when financial problems forced her and her three daughters out of the family home. Two years later, Maria discovered that she had cancer. She has had two major operations and deals with severe pain every day. Despite these problems, she is so positive in her thinking that she is moved to encourage other people. How does she maintain her happiness?
Maria says: “When I have a problem, I try not to think too much about myself. I avoid asking questions like these: ‘Why me? Why do I have to suffer like this? Why did I have to get sick?’ Negative thinking uses up energy. Instead, I direct my energy toward serving Jehovah and helping others. That brings me happiness.”
What role does hope play in Maria’s life? She has her heart set on the future when Jehovah will take away illness and other problems from mankind. When she goes to the hospital for treatment, she shares that hope with other cancer patients, who may be despondent. How important is hope to Maria? She says: “I often think of what the Bible says at Hebrews 6:19, where Paul describes hope as an anchor for the soul. Without that anchor, you will drift like a boat loose in a storm. But if you are tied to that anchor, you will be secure in spite of the stormy problems you face.” That “hope of the everlasting life which God, who cannot lie, promised” helps Maria to remain happy. It can do the same for you.—Titus 1:2.
Through a study of the Bible, you can find true happiness despite your problems. You may, though, have questions about the practical aspects of this. Jehovah’s Witnesses will be pleased to show you the Scriptural answers that you need to know if you are to be truly happy. As you await fulfillment of the hope Jehovah offers, you can be among those described in this way: “They shall obtain joy and gladness, and sorrow and sighing shall flee away.”—Isaiah 35:10, King James Version.
The Encyclopædia Britannica (2003) describes Sheol as “a place of neither pain nor pleasure, punishment nor reward.”
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Only Bible truth can alleviate sorrow
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The Bible’s hope of the resurrection can contribute to happiness