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What is Happiness?

In a Article “The Golden Triangle of Happiness” by William Verity and Yasmin Parry,  people of all persuasions are in pursuit of happiness. It cites the latest findings of the Australian Wellbeing Index that involved more than sixty thousand participants. Conducted twice a year over the last fifteen years, the study concludes that besides genetics, there are three simple indicators of a happy life. Being part of an intimate relationship is the most vital component in contributing to a person’s sense of wellbeing. Second, people are happiest when they are active, when they have a goal and a sense of purpose in life. And third, people are happiest when they have financial control. While money alone cannot make us happy, a lack of stability can make us miserable.

To phrase it simply, the three components that define happiness according to this study are relationship, meaning, and security. In a world that constantly tries to project power, pleasure, and more pleasure as indispensable to human happiness, this may well offer a refreshing counter-perspective. I wonder if it might also reaffirm the truth of the Christian gospel? For relationship, meaning, and security are the very things God offers us through the person and work of Jesus Christ.

The God revealed in the Bible is both personal and relational. We are created by this God, formed in God’s likeness, and thus, there is an innate longing within us for relationship. To put it simply, we are most fulfilled when our relationships are good, and when there is a rupture or betrayal in our relationships, this sense of fulfillment is lacking. The greatest biblical commandment according to Jesus also pertains to this particular aspect of life: God’s hope is that we might love our Maker with all of our hearts, minds, and souls, and that we might love our fellow neighbor as we love ourselves. The primary mission of Jesus Christ is to bring us further near to the love of God, to heal the corruption of our hearts, and to restore us to one another.

This takes us to the second component, which is our universal search for meaning and purpose in life. Throughout history, the origin and ultimate destiny of humanity have been explored and explained in various ways and with various disciplines. There are those who would define human beings as molecules in motion, products of accident, with no ultimate destiny beyond this life. Still others describe humanity itself as an illusion, a “maya.” The Bible, conversely, describes humanity as created; fashioned in the likeness of a personal, infinite, and intelligent God. Surely, such a vision bestows human beings with a most significant sense of worth and value, while underscoring life’s purpose as knowing and relating to God and fellow creatures. Consequently, the Christian sense of meaning and purpose in life flows from a relationship with our Creator. For it is only the one who creates who can define the true purpose of the thing created. As water is restless until it reaches its level, so the soul has no peace until it rests in God.

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