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By Barb Kugle
Special to The PREVIEW
A friend confided to me that she was looking for a book on how to find happiness. She said, “You know, beyond what the Bible tells us.”
I assumed she meant a sustained general sense of happiness and well being. If so, I can identify. Happiness is an elusive thing; a state of being that can shift with the wind, depending on an infinite number of conditions.
My sister wrote a poem, “ALMOST,” that I think perfectly describes this phenomena:
but not very often,
actually quite rarely,
well, almost never,
maybe even occasionally,
well, much more often than not,
I’m quite happy.
For reasons that I can’t quite put my finger on, this past Fourth of July was a near euphoric day for me. As I chronicled it in my journal, I realized I had no idea what made it different from other days. Was it because I had looked forward to a family gathering on our back patio? Was it because everything went as I had planned? I also had time to get a lot of things done I had been putting off. Counting my accomplishment makes me happy.
Sad, but true.
And then the word blessed came to mind. Blessed literally means happy, fortunate, or blissful. In Matthew 5, Jesus describes the divinely given gift of happiness, an emotional sense of well being. The poor in spirit acknowledge that all spiritual blessings come from God. These blessings do give one a supernatural sense of contentment.
So, I started a word search for “Blessed is the man …” I meditated on just a few and found only the tip of the iceberg. If I were to dive deeper, I know I’ll have discovered the best book ever written on the subject of happiness. Try it and see if it doesn’t stir an emotional response of gratitude and praise, particularly on those days when you’re sure you’ve gotten out of bed on the wrong side.
Happiness is also synonymous with contentment. Paul said, “I have learned to be content in all things.”
Evidently, happiness is learned. It is a process. We have to train our minds in that direction. Happiness is surely as much a gift as it is a choice. There are days, I must admit, when I choose to be unhappy. “I deserve to wallow in self-pity,” I’ve told myself many a time; “I’m so mistreated, misunderstood and unappreciated.”
But, I suspect the underlying reason for many a dour day is the denial of guilt. Unconfessed sin is a violation of my relationship with God. Guilt accuses. Sometimes it can even make me physically ill. Loving myself more than I ought can make me unhappy, especially when the person who shares my space comes between me and myself. I’m not naming any names, but he can irritate me beyond reasonableness. Confession brings forgiveness and a sense of peace and well being—happiness.
Still, stuff happens, circumstances beyond our control. While we may not feel happy in them, we can know a peace that surpasses human understanding, and, with it, an indescribable joy.
Solomon had earthly blessings most of us can only dream of; yet in Ecclesiastes, he says repeatedly, “It’s all meaningless.” I’ve concluded that if our days were an endless state of happiness and blessings, we wouldn’t have anything to look forward to in heaven. We wouldn’t need God. We wouldn’t need a Savior.
I like how Solomon puts it in Ecclesiastes 7:14:
Who can straighten
what [God] has made crooked?
when times are good, be happy;
but when times are bad, consider:
God has made one
as well as the other.
“ALMOST “© 1987 Maggie Inskeep, used by permission from the author.
Send your faith articles (500 to 800 words) to firstname.lastname@example.org. All faiths invited.