Monday, September 08, 2008

Happiness & The Good Life

Happiness -- I've been thinking about it a lot lately. The political season probably has a lot to do with it -- since each party is promising me I'll be happy and better off if I vote for its candidates. Yeah, and my teeth will be brighter and shirts whiter, too.

Then there's news from a recent survey. It revealed that the United States was out-happied by Nigeria. That despite our per capita income being seventh in the world and Nigerians making an average of $520. Per year.

Besides Nigeria, we’re beat out by Mexico, Venezuela, El Salvador, and Puerto Rico. Hardly a group we consumerists would even think of as our competition.

The good news is we beat out Romania.

We may be proving that the old joke “Money can’t buy happiness, but it allows you to be miserable in style,” is more than a joke. It’s the truth. For all the material things we have, many of us sense that we are lacking something. Something important. Something inside. The upside is that this sense of a deep interior helps us realize that the good life is more than having things. The good life is one of soul satisfaction.

But how do we find it?

One way is, I think, by doing some reordering of our lives around four basic ideas.

The first is that the good life is about following God. While this may seem obvious, it one of those things that is so obvious that we often forget it. We need to ignore the artificial division between sacred and secular move through life while inviting God to be involved in every part of it.

Second, we need to remember that God’s will can be known and obeyed. As we learn God’s will, and obey it, we soon learn that we are participating, with other people of faith, in God’s work in this world. The good life calls us to partner with God in doing Divine work in this world.

A third idea is that following God leads to a life that is balanced and deeply satisfying. This is not to say that life is always happy and filled with all sorts of good things and pleasant experiences. Rather it means that following God in the daily divine dance of life provides a soul satisfaction and sense of rightness. This rightness brings balance to our lives.

The fourth thing is that the good life is also about being good. About being honest, care-full of others, actually behaving in ways we know would be pleasing to God. Much of the good life, they found, comes about by asking God to worth with them in thinking about and going those things that are true, noble, right, pure, and lovely. The actions that come easily, drawn as they are from a heart of love for God and God’s people. Actions that come from the desire to please the Great Lover of Our Souls, in the same way we delight to please the people we love here on earth.

All of these lead us to the good life -- a life of true happiness. Beyond party and polls, beyond things and into some thing deep and rich and life-giving. The hard part is putting them into practice daily. Which leads to a fifth lesson I guess -- the good life is about total dependence on God, without whose strength we can do nothing.

-- Brent

1 comment:

My Blog Your Thoughts said...

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