Where to find true happiness
"Whoever said money can't buy happiness," mused Golden Raspberry award-winning actress, Bo Derek "simply didn't know where to go shopping."
But which shops and what brands? That's the problem if you want to be happy.
"Happiness" has been the theme of my daily Bible readings from the BRF (Bible Reading Fellowship) these last few days - fascinating. They have been based on a course on how to be happy, produced by medical doctor and church leader Andy Parnham, essentially for people who have been very damaged by life.
Essentially, God wants us to be happy. Very happy. Which if you think about it is Good News, especially if we are tempted to think of God as a spoilsport, making sure we don't stay out too late. I wonder what time the father eventually went to bed after throwing the party for the return of his prodigal son.
In fact, I am writing this blog in the pleasant little French seaside town of La Tranche in the Vendée, a commune - as far as I can see - whose only purpose is to give people pleasure. That's okay - that's why we are here. Otherwise it would have been easier and considerably cheaper to take the family to Maghull for a week.
As I type this I can hear the first stirrings of our grandchildren - and so I had better
Hello Iris! What a great book for you to read - Maisy Makes Gingerbread.
So going back to my BRF notes I read "Jesus himself portrayed a sense of the vitality of God everywhere he went. . . He wanted to bring out for us the inbuilt happiness potential that he knew God had put within us."
For that is where creation is heading, as shown in the book of Revelation, as I mentioned last week rounds off the Bible for us. Here we find a whole set of celebratory metaphors, especially the 'new Jerusalem' prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. The descriptions of God's intended dwelling for us are lavish and over-the-top.
And more, all that would demean or damage us is banished. We will be completely safe. God's original purpose for us is now wonderfully fulfilled with the climax that we will see his face (Revelation 22:4). Abundant life in all its fullness is relational, above all when we experience our full relationship with the God who made us for himself.
"God offers us the forgiveness for our sins and complete release from the baggage we would otherwise have to carry that could spoil our sense of enjoyment."
It is the Psalms which depict God's world as its most fruitful, colourful, productive and lively, reflecting his glory. "You make the gateways of the morning and the evening shout for joy!" (Psalm 65:8). He blesses the earth with fruitfulness. All the provisions he has are made available to us. Wonderfully, there is nothing we could desire that will be withheld from us.
We have a part in this - to live our lives with an awareness that God has a purpose for each of us. An important part of the Hebrew Bible is the wisdom tradition. "Happy is the one who listens to me, watching daily at my gates, waiting beside my doors." (Proverbs 8:34).
So it is unsurprising then that those who live out the inherent qualities of the universe are successful and happy. Here is God's happiness principle, the very opposite of a mere set of rules which are unrealistic and oppressive. "My fruit is better than fine gold; what I yield surpasses choice silver," declares Wisdom (Proverbs 8:19)
I'm joined now by lots of grandchildren at the table - John takes a photo. I try and think.
In all this pleasure is important, not sufficient but important. "Pleasurable sensations are an important contributory factor in our sense of well-being."
Psalm 104 could appear excessive. Not only does God care for his creation - "He waters the mountains from his upper chambers, the land is satisfied by the fruit of his work." (v13). But he actively cares for us, those whom he has made in his own image.
So we read in the following verse: (He provides)
"wine that gladdens human hearts,
oil to make their faces shine,
and bread that sustains their hearts."
Talking about wine, what about Cana? No one can accuse Jesus of being miserly when he turns 150 gallons of water into wine, wine which would cost more than 40 euros a bottle at our local superU supermarché.
However, the problem with pleasure, as Parnham notes, is that is fades and it habituates. That's why the master of the banquet tells us that the best wine is served first, not last. Drinking too much diminishes the pleasure - and harms us.
Above all we find happiness in relationships, in the family (as for me now, despite the noise and distractions - there are going to be a lot of typos today) and friendships. The apostle Paul writes to the Philippian church, for example, to thank them for their friendship, a friendship expressed in their being aware of his needs and the generosity of their response. He writes of his deep happiness as he celebrates their friendship (eg Philippians 4:10)
Potty time for Jack. Where is it? "Anyone seen Jack's potty?"
But it is our friendship with God which brings us most happiness - here we find fulfilment, meaning and purpose, all essential for our happiness. It is through the cross of Jesus, his cross alone, is our relationship with him restored.
"All this is from God who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation." (2 Corinthians 5:18).
In fact, the word used by the Bible for happiness is important: blessed. Not so much a state of mind but a situation. We are blessed as we receive God's rich blessing.
"Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ!" (Ephesians 1:3).
Happiness is one of my favourite verses: "You have put gladness in my heart more than when their grain and wine abound." (Psalm 4:7).
Now true happiness - fresh croissants and baguettes just brought in by Debs on her bike!
A votre santé,