This week, I’m starting my happiness course. Not that I feel that unhappy with life, but then I’m sure I used to be happier than I am now. Though in saying that, I can’t really quantify my state of happiness. It feels too abstract an idea to give my happiness a score out of 10, which I was asked to try and do when registering for the course. That said, I’m sure I’m generally more stressed, less content and angrier than when I was younger, despite being in an life-enriching marriage, spending large amounts of time with my three-year-old daughter, who has become a life-force to me, and having the opportunity to be a writer.
Anyway, I’m looking forward to the next eight weeks, and I’m sure I’ll plot my journey here.
More details about the course: www.embody.co.uk/happinessforlife/
Being on the course will have an added dimension for me, as later this year my new book will be out – A Permanent Becoming: A contemporary look at the Fruit of the Spirit. In writing the book, I broached the subject of human happiness and the relationship of God’s Spirit in bringing this about. And having written about such things, I feel obliged to walk the talk, and I hope that the next eight weeks will be part of that journey.
I’ll post more details about the book when they are available. In the mean time, here is a brief section from the chapter on happiness.
OK. I admit it. You can only go so far with this happiness thing before you have to mention God. But the point I’m trying to make is this: the G-factor informs and deepens our understanding and pursuit of happiness rather than replacing it with something unique and altogether different.
As John Ortberg once wrote: We will never understand the significance of joy in human life until we understand its importance to God . . . God is the happiest being in the universe.
But then, why wouldn’t he be?
For a start, he’s got the key element sorted: God has quality, mutual relationship within his own being – Father, Son and Spirit.
Which means, God is generating happiness out of his own self.
Which means, Jesus’ joy comes from his relationship with the Father and the Spirit.
Which means, the Fruit of the Spirit is happiness if for no other reason than it comes out of a relationship with God.
God’s got another happy factor going on: he’s outward looking and gains satisfaction in what has been described as ‘flow’ – an ability to be absorbed in something other than one’s own self. And what God is absorbed in is you, me and the rest of his creation. Which is a staggering and humbling thought.
What’s more, God’s ‘flow’ means that creation is an expression and perpetuation of God’s happiness. Indeed, creation itself responds with joy as, ‘Desert pastures blossom and mountains celebrate. Meadows are filled with sheep and goats; valleys overflow with grain and echo joyful songs.’ The connectedness of the creation to the Creator makes it joyful – and we are part of that creation, which is why one of the Fruit of Spirit is happiness.
I think children are often closer to the image of God than adults when it comes generating happiness from creation. Perhaps they are too young to be disconnected by human exploitation of the world in which we live. Or, possibly they’re just better at seeing the goodness that’s around them, and enjoying the wonder of what God has given them. Either way, they seem to tap into the joy and happiness of simply being alive in ways that many adults don’t.
I’m trying to regain wonder through my two year old daughter. She can see the moon and burst into dances of delight, or be captivated by shadows or the sensation of sand running through her fingers. I even recall taking her to the zoo, trying to be exuberant about the lions and lowland gorillas, but she was transfixed by something more mundane – a park keeper sweeping up autumn leaves.
Be absorbed beyond yourself. Connect with nature. Feel the joy that’s still there, despite the ravages of human activity. Sense the numinous and transcendent qualities within the universe. Be happy.