Listen: Chris Witts presents Morning Devotions.
By Chris WittsThursday 26 Nov 2020Morning Devotions with Chris WittsDevotionsReading Time: 5 minutes
More than 2,300 years ago, a Greek philosopher named Aristotle had a big influence on the way of life then. He spoke and wrote about happiness and his most famous statement was this: Happiness is the ultimate end and purpose of human existence.
He believed that, more than anything else, men and women seek happiness. Fair enough. Not much has changed since those early years in Greek theology. He introduced the science of happiness—and it’s a fascinating topic. But I think we don’t really understand it very much at all, judging by how many unhappy people there are. It seems there is a big search for the unreachable.
When Do You Really Feel Happy?
We have come a long way since then. The Roman emperors couldn’t switch on a digital TV to be entertained when they were bored. But even in today’s wonderfully advanced times, many feel their lives are being wasted, and have no meaning. The big question is, I think: When do you really feel happy?
- What does it take to make you absolutely happy? Winning lotto? Each of us may have some idea of what we want to achieve before we die. If not, then we are missing out on so much.
- What are my gifts and natural talents? If I can go part of the way to attaining that, I will be happy and contented. Maybe.
- Where is all the money I was supposed to have made?
- Where are all the good times I was going to have in retirement??
A Psychological Study of Happiness
I read of a psychologist who studied a group of people for 30 years. There were several thousand of them, each wearing an electronic paging device. Eight times a day, a message was sent to these people asking them to stop what they were doing, and write down in a diary a record of what they were thinking and feeling at that time.
People took part in many countries around the world, from differing cultures, people of all walks of life. The psychologist and his team studied all the answers, and called his study the optimal experience of flow. It’s a little complicated, but basically it showed that when we are focused on a goal that is difficult, and yet achievable, we are truly happy.
If it’s not stretching enough, we become bored, restless, unhappy. That’s why some people love their work—they are totally involved, engaged. Go on holidays, and they become bored and restless. If we are not challenged in life, we become passive, weak, dull, and dissatisfied. Why do we enjoy a meal with friends? Because we can share our stories, tears, and joys.
An Old King’s Views on Happiness
Interesting experiment—and yet it’s not new. In the Old Testament, we read the book of Ecclesiastes. The writer says that the deepest satisfaction and happiness is found in the simple things of life. Solomon, son of David, and third King of Israel, wrote this book. He was rich beyond measure—he had a thousand wives and concubines, enormous wealth, international respect, and unparalleled wisdom.
What he didn’t always have, however, was a reason for living. He didn’t always have happiness. He fits the pattern of the highly gifted, extremely ambitious person who climbs the ladder of success—only to contemplate jumping off once he’s reached the top.
It seems Solomon studied literature and art, psychology and sociology, astronomy and physics, and theology and philosophy. But he found his search to be a ‘grievous task’, for there are so many things that yield no answers, even when assaulted by the highest of human intelligence. He wasn’t satisfied—it was almost like, as an older person, he was pleading with his readers, not to follow his example. Solomon, the preacher, looked for satisfaction through the pursuit of education, pleasure, wisdom, and work. Each effort he judged to be futile. None of these areas, when pursued for their own sake, are able to provide meaning and satisfaction in life. Read chapters 2 and 3 for yourself.
A Better Way to Find True Happiness
There is a better way. And that is to follow God’s design for living. Find out from the Bible how he wants you to live—to be in close relationship with him, and be thankful for the simple stuff of life. It is knowing God, through his Son Jesus Christ, that we find inner peace, contentment, and happiness that does not depend on outer circumstances.
What we need is something that will be adequate for every day, that will be lifelong, and not merely passing, which can cope with the inherent futility of this earthly realm and the brevity of life. What we need cannot be found here, however. It cannot be found under the sun; it can only be found in God under heaven, Solomon the preacher would say.
Knowing God, through his Son Jesus Christ, we find inner peace and contentment.
Ernest Hemingway, the famous author who committed suicide, said:
Life is just a dirty trick. A short trip from nothingness to nothingness. There is no remedy for anything in life; man’s destiny in the universe is like a colony of ants living on the end of a burning log.
H.G. Wells, a brilliant man, said this:
Unless there is a more abundant life before mankind this scheme of space and time is a bad joke, an empty laugh braying across the mystery of life.
True, there is much bad news today. Many people are like that shipwrecked sailor I read about who had spent three years on a deserted island and was overjoyed one day to see a ship drop anchor in the bay. A small boat came ashore and an officer handed this shipwrecked sailor some newspapers. This officer said: The captain suggests that you read what is going on in the world and then let us know if you want to be rescued.
But the Christian faith says, Jesus Christ gives you meaning and life beyond the grave. Surrender your life to him today and find out.