Greetings precious friends around the world! Happiness is a finicky thing. You can’t pin it down and say here it is, I have found it, and it will never escape my grasp again. Let’s talk happiness today!
If there is a plausible reason for a person doing anything, it’s most certainly to find happiness. In the everyday distractions and disruptions of life, we may not subconsciously realize this, but happiness is the underlying motivation for everything we do. Happiness is a universal pursuit! Happiness makes us do extraordinary things with our lives. We work and struggle for it; we fight to defend it; we rest our hopes and dreams upon it. We can go to a person of any nationality, language, or culture, and you will find this assessment to be unanimously true for all people. No one goes out to seek ways to inflict pain and misery upon himself or his loved ones. It’s inhumane, if not sadistic! The pursuit of happiness and joy is the universal occupation, past-time, and reason for human existence.
“Happy Islands” in Outline of Smiley Face, Malaysia (Pic: Wiki Commons)
Happiness is Fleeting
If you ask anyone the question – what is happiness for you? – you will probably get as many answers as there are people. Why is that? Because with humans, happiness is a transient thing – it is temporary, it comes and goes and is fleeting. Happiness means different things to different people. At different times and phase in life, it changes color. For someone, happiness may be finding a job because he is unemployed. Then for another, it is to find the right person to marry. Or, it may be taking a vacation to an exotic location. Then, there can be a person who wants nothing more than getting out of an abusive relationship. As a parent with a child, an ice cream would guarantee that innocent broad smile that just lifts our spirits. And so the endless definition of happiness goes on and on.
Coping Needs & Happiness
On the other side of the pendulum we find many people struggling to find the meaning of happiness. For them, their constant struggle to find three square meals a day is their interpretation of life. Or, to survive a day in a war torn country is the only reality they know, let alone happiness. People do not universally live like we do in America, and happiness is defined differently, if there is such a thing, for them. Then there are people who are dirt-poor but live happier than those who surround themselves with an abundance of material things. Abraham Maslow (1908-1970) theorized that one must satisfy his or her coping needs like physiological, safety, love and belonging, and respect, before moving ahead to higher level of needs of true happiness. So, for the majority of people, happiness may be defined as just meeting one’s ‘coping needs.’
Maslow’s Pyramid of Coping Needs (Wiki Commons)
Fountain of Joy
Coping needs are usually temporary like satisfying one’s hunger, shelter, finding a job, etc. But to reach the higher level of needs that is not temporary but lasting and permanent, requires something transcendent, a spiritual rejuvenation. I realize that once I mention ‘spiritual,’ people tend to back-off, it’s not somewhere they want to tread. But humans are intrinsically spiritual beings, whether we want to acknowledge it or not, does not change the status quo. As Karl Barth said, “We can speak about man only by speaking about God.” (The Humanity of God, Pg.70) We want to investigate happiness not as a temporary emotion – temporary joys occurs all the time in people’s lives. But we are investigating happiness as a source of joy that’s resilient and enduring. A fountain of limitless joy, if you like! Is there such a thing and place, anyway? I would like to propose to you that there is. If there is a God, there is boundless joy, for He is the Source of it. I will present this article in two installments, and you can judge it for what’s it worth for value. And I invite your comments.
Two Types of Happiness
Let’s come back to the person who was elated and happy beyond words at finding a job. Years on, he now finds himself struggling to finish the day in his job because routine and boredom has set in. What was at one time the source of happiness has turned into a prison-like place of unhappiness. And this emptiness, this temporary happiness, is being repeated rampant across the spectrum of human experience, only the circumstances are different. People are experiencing this temporary form of happiness all the time. It’s time to understand and experience lasting happiness. The happiness that is defined not by transient and coping circumstances, or money and material stuff, but by true and enduring happiness! If that is what we are truly seeking, then we will have to tap into the spiritual component of our lives, because that is where the fountain of joy which brews happiness can be found. In other words, happiness can be defined into two broad categories: one is temporary and will empty out in due course, and the other is resilient and enduring.
God and Happiness
All spiritual matters organically leads to God, who is the Creator and the Sustainer of all life, and the Source of joy. God lives in eternal joy, therefore, He is eternally happy. Some may say, how can God be happy when there is so much evil in the world He has created? O, you can be sure He is grieved by what man has done in this world, but it does not remove the underlying joy which is inherently part of His nature. He is who He is – Love and joy undergirds His divine Being. Sadness and grief is a temporary emotion, but joy is permanent like God is eternal. (Rev.21:3-5) Good and evil in this world has much to do with Love and freedom. They both go hand in hand, you cannot have one without the other. God cannot remove man’s freedom to make choices, and Love man at the same time – it’s a conflicting statement.
Happiness, Freedom, & Evil
You can be certain God can end all the evil in this world in an instant, but would that truly solve man’s problems, would it fulfill His purpose for creating man? God made humans to have minds like He has, so man can have the freedom to choose like He does in His Love. Author Micheal Reeves speaking on the Triune God says, “The creatures (humans) of the Triune God are not mere extensions of Him; He gives them life and personal being. Allowing them that, though, means allowing them to turn away from Himself, – and that is the origin of evil. By graciously giving His creatures (humans) the room to exist, the Triune God allows them the freedom to turn away without Himself being the author of evil.” (Delighting in the Trinity, Pg.58) Unlike all other species He has created with pre-set instincts, humans have minds like God for making choices, for He made man to have separate personalities yet unified as one like He is in His Tri-Personal Being. In the final analysis, God’s happiness is not defined by His creation or the circumstances that stand up against Him, but by who He is in His Love. Love is expressed by its fruits, and joy is one of them. We forget that inherent in our freedoms is our search for happiness. Freedom and happiness are flip sides of the same coin. So, man has to have the freedom to choose, right from wrong, good from evil, and grief from happiness. In His Love for man, God cannot take away His Love and freedom from him. But God does show man the way out of his dilemma if he so chooses to follow Him. And God has been doing this from the beginning since Adam freely chose to rebel against His way of Love. But man has turned down His offer time and again as the Bible adequately shows us.
Love Is The Source of Happiness
Does anyone goes out of his way and deliberately make himself miserable and unhappy? Of course not, and that proves that we are all, no matter our nationality, race, or cultural norms, made in the Creator’s joyful image – for we are ever seeking ways that makes us happy. All our actions are motivated by our pursuit of happiness. God has implanted in our DNA His joy from which happiness springs. It is for man to tap into that spring and find true happiness. Sometimes we find people’s reasons may be sadistic, like people with extremists views, but it is what they imagine will bring them ‘happiness.’ They are misguided, but happiness is still at the end of the search in their journey – so they think. We have not found the elixir which make us happy permanently, like God is in His Triune nature. And that elixir is God’s divine Triune Love. Intrinsic in His Love is the fruit of joy, the very wellspring from which happiness springs forth. We were created to reflect His divine image of joy. (Gen.1:26-27) The Bible tells us that when we have this Love, then we also have this joy that no man can take from us. (John 16:22) This joy brings happiness in good times and bad. Our circumstance, be it our coping needs or otherwise, is not the determinant for the expression of this joy. Like a spring it is always bubbling with joy to overcome any and all adverse circumstances.
Divine Love – the Basis of Happiness (Wiki Commons)
Man – A Vessel for Joy
Try to think of yourself as a container. When your container is full with the right stuff, you are happy no matter what the circumstance. But you feel empty inside when your container is filled with the wrong stuff – your joy is human and dissipates like vapor. This right “stuff” is what I call the elixir which brings lasting happiness. It is the wellspring from which joy erupts into a life of happiness. The elixir is the very Love of God, and His Love is His nature. (1 John 4:8) And God tells us clearly He created us so we can share in His image of Love. (Gen.1:26-27) We have probably heard of this Love described to us in many ways, and called by various names, but I’m not sure we are talking about the same thing. There is a love that’s entirely humansitic, that’s not it. When I say the Love of God that is Triune in its expression, I mean there is only one way this Love can enter the human container. The Bible is very clear and unambiguous about this. It says this, “The Love of God which is deposited in our hearts by the Holy Spirit.” (Rom.5:5) There are only two “stuff” that can fill us as human containers: it is the spirit call the self – whose entire focus is on self-love (the wrong stuff), or it is the Holy Spirit who instills in man the divine Love of God (the right stuff). The Bible says man is a “temple (container) for the Holy Spirit.” (1 Cor.3:16; 6:19) We were made to be containers for God’s divine Love. That’s man’s purpose and reason for being.
Back to Eden
I would like us to travel back in time to the story of man in Eden. Here, we’ll find the source of joy and happiness. Eden was the reservoir for God’s Love, and since Adam and Eve lived in it, their lives were filled with God’s Love. Adam and Eve knew happiness like no other human has ever experienced before and after Eden. They were living in the very fountain of joy – a joy which exists in God’s Triune Being in the Father, Son, and Spirit. They knew all the joys God wanted man to have. But after they alienated themselves from God’s presence, they were expelled from Eden, and came to live outside Eden. What lay outside of Eden was the life of self-centeredness Adam chose to live without God’s Triune Love. He lived a life with the ‘self’ as its core, with all its fallen, depraved, evil, and self-centered form of expression. In compassion, God promised to send a second Adam to rescue man. He was Jesus, and He came and took all our wickedness upon Himself, and rescued us and took man back to Eden and into the presence of God’s Triune Love.
The Two Elements
Before the fall of man in Eden, man was totally happy like God, who was the source of their joy. In this joyous state of existence, they happily performed two tasks given them by God. These two tasks contributed and enhanced their happiness. They were to “dress and keep the Garden” God had planted for them, and they were not to eat the “forbidden fruit.” These tasks were done more out of reciprocating Love than legalistic obedience often taught today. From this, we deduce that their happiness was tied in with their “work” and to a “moral” obligation done in Love. When Proverbs says, “The blessing of the LORD brings wealth, without painful toil for it,” it speaks of a life where joy and happiness is the essential part of life. The fact that these two elements never diminished their joy and gratefulness, proved they only contributed to and enhanced their joy. In other words, God’s Love expressed in their “purpose” and “responsibility” equals happiness!
Recall, this way of life was normal and brought joy before our first parent’s fell from grace. Their adherence to these two trump way of life was not legalistic, where one party says ‘I will do this for you, and you will do that for me,’ as is common in human interaction. No, it was an act of free and costless Love. Love can’t be repaid, it can only be given freely. There was a “destiny” to be lived, which is tied to our “responsibility for each other.” In other words, to “dress and keep the garden” metaphorically means our calling and direction in life. The “forbidden fruit” means our moral responsibility to be “our brother’s keeper” by owing nothing to each other but the debt of Love. (Rom.13:8) Morality can exist only in human relationships, therefore, the “forbidden fruit” relates to actions which we are to desist as prescribed by the commandments. So, happiness was and is essentially tied in with a person’s purpose and calling in life, and his expression of Love for his neighbor.
Garden of Eden (Wiki Commons)
The Third Element
I want us to understand this as the foundation of happiness: the fact these two elements of man’s life was an essential part of man’s happiness when he lived in complete unity and happiness with His Maker before his fall. The Bible does not reveal how long Adam and Eve remained faithful and united in God’s Love before their fall. Some have postulated that it was 33 years, the same age Jesus lived on earth. Whatever that may be, the point is their disobedience could not nullify or invalidate the elements of happiness which were already established by God in Eden before man’s fall. In other words, man’s happiness will continue to be validated by these principles. This is the same with the institution of marriage which was given to man before man’s fall. The two elements of purpose and responsibility are constituent parts of man’s happiness as God determined from the beginning. However, after the fall these elements were used for selfish purpose by man – not God’s purpose.
So, a third element was brought to bear in man’s happiness. All the institutions God tried to establish with mankind after the fall were conciliatory in nature. That’s to say, they were intended to bring man from his fallen state of existence back to his intended unified state of existence with God. And the most important of these institutions was the Passover, or in short, man’s need for a Savior through the second Adam, Jesus Christ, the Son of God. He came to reinstate man’s place in Eden through the cross. And now, man have these three elements in his life which will bring the happiness he once knew when he lived in the fullness of God’s Love which dominated his existence.
The Three Elements of Happiness
So, these are the three elements for lasting happiness – the first is a person’s purpose and destiny, second is his moral responsibility to Love his neighbor, these were given before man’s fall in Eden. And the third came after man’s fall in the provision of a Savior to take man back to man’s original estate. It has been said that “happiness is a state of mind.” Nothing could be more true, for it is in how we put these triune elements into practice as they affect us personally through the decisions we make in our minds, that we begin to sow the seeds of happiness in our lives.
Jesus told the disciples, “I will ask the Father and He will give you another Advocate to help you and be with you forever – the Spirit of truth.” (John 14:16-17) Happiness is not about following humanistic theories, but it is the Spirit that counts. (Rom.8:13) In practical (spiritual) terms it is the role of the Spirit to take man back to “Eden” where he can drink from the spring of perpetual joy. (Rom.5:5; John 16:13-15)
In my next segment I’ll touch in detail on these triune elements of purpose, responsibility, and man’s Mediator, and how they affect our personal realities on this important topic of happiness.
Until we meet again in my next post, may the blessing of the God who ceaselessly expresses Himself in His dependable Triune Love, be with you today and give you strength for authentic creative “Triune Living” as a Bulamanriver.*
If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to write me in the space provided below, or email me on email@example.com.
Kiang (Your Servant in Christ)
* The “Bulamanriver” is the metaphor describing the union of man with the Love of the Triune God flowing in humans, making possible the “Triune Life” – the source of the miraculous life in man. Man is the “riverbed” and the Spirit is the “living waters” that cover him and flows to all in his valley (destiny). (John 7:37-39)
All scriptures are taken from the NIV Version 2011, unless stated otherwise.