“Happiness is inward, and not outward; and so it does not depend on what we have, but on what we are. It cannot be found by direct seeking, but by setting our faces toward the things from which it flows; and so we must climb the mount if we would see the vision, we must tune the instrument if we would hear the music. It is not solitary, but social; and so we can never have it without sharing it with others. It is the result of God’s will for us, and not of our will for ourselves; and so we can only find it by giving our lives up, in submission and obedience, to the control of God.” ~ Henry Van Dyke, Counsels by the Way …
I love that Henry was able to bring happiness down to such a simplistic level. He speaks here, of four great secrets to seeking immortal happiness–not earthly happiness that “belongs to the senses and perishes with them.” First, that happiness is something that occurs within us, not outside. This leads us to the first truth that what we are–and not what we have–can only make us truly happy. In understanding this, we can begin to attune ourselves to the joy and peace in life, the second secret. The third secret is that happiness is meant to be shared with others–spread throughout the world so that it might grow, blossom, and beautify the world in ways that are wholesome and good. And this only makes sense when we think about the fourth secret: that happiness is brought about in fulfilling our purpose in life–in answering God’s call and entrusting our lives into His loving care. <!–more–>
Yet despite there being only four secrets to follow, doing so is not as easy as it would seem, for the world tends to teach us the exact opposite and distracts us from true happiness every chance it gets. Advertisers, marketers, and salespeople try to direct our focus outside of ourselves for happiness, telling us we can buy our happiness with the newest and latest stuff. They want us to journey down the endless path of seeking it out… that means more money in their pockets. In addition, we sometimes feel that we need to search for happiness on our own and in our own ways. After all, it can be easy to let pride, selfishness, fear, egotism, arrogance, or anger keep us from sharing happiness with others or from allowing God to be the source of our happiness.
Do not search for happiness by accumulating wealth or possessions, or by living your life selfishly and on your own terms; you will find that it simply is not there and deep happiness will always evade you. Seek, instead, the immortal kind of happiness in your life. Make decisions that develop, build up, and grow your character into the person that you are meant to be, and you will find that your life is filled with joy, peace, and happiness as a result.
Reflect upon the following lines of the Westminster Shorter Catechism: “Man’s chief end is to glorify God and to enjoy Him forever.”
Questions to consider:
How might we confuse the momentary satisfaction of getting something nice with “real happiness?”
If happiness is there within us all, why is it so dificult for some individuals to achieve?
How can we develop our happiness? In what ways can living out our purpose contribute towards our happiness?
For further thought:
“Happiness is not a possession to be prized, it is a quality of thought, a state of mind.” ~ Daphne DuMaurier, Rebecca