Sunday, November 17, 2013

A Christmas Message

During this season the words merry or happy are used frequently. We say things like Merry Christmas, Happy Chanukah, Happy Thanksgiving or Happy New Year. When we say that, we are expressing our desire for that person to experience happiness during the holidays. The Season by itself has no inherent power to bring about happiness. In fact many people find themselves seriously depressed during the Holiday Season. That’s especially true if someone near and dear to you died. His or her absence is felt more powerfully at this time.

Because of the cultural expectation to be happy during the holiday season we frequently embark on a search for things we think will bring us the happiness we are supposed to feel. More often than not, despite all our efforts, many of us find that sense of happiness is very short lived.    Our happiness will be elusive if we make it conditional on a future event. So if you say to yourself “I’ll be happy when (fill in the blank)________, you’re not likely to happy for long. Even when the when wished for event comes about. I’ll give some examples. I’ll be happy I finally own or receive ________ as a gift.  I’ll be happy when I find someone to love me.  I’ll be happy when I break off this awful relationship. I’ll be happy when I have children.  I’ll be happy when my children are grown and leave home. The list is unique for each of us, but results are similar.  When the wished for circumstance happens, we’ll  experience an increased measure of happiness, which over the course of a few days or weeks all but disappears.

Scientists have studied this issue and have come up some interesting conclusions. I’ll share some of them. First, that positive circumstances, meaning the things you believe will make you happy accounts for about 10% of the happiness you’ll feel.  Another interesting finding is that most people have a set point for how happy they will be.  So everyone will experience a rise in happiness in reaction of receiving a gift or a experiencing a positive life event. Over time, you’ll drop back down to your set point until something novel causes it to rise again. That’s often what drives people to seek out pleasure. They get bored with their set point and need do something even though in the long term it might be destructive, as long as it moves the needle of happiness up for a brief period of time. Ask someone who is hooked on shopping how long the purchase of a single item provides them with a feeling of pleasure.

So, what is it that can bring us lasting joy and happiness?  I think all of us at one time or another seriously believe that having more money  would make us happy. Next time you are at the grocery store take a look at some of the magazines that feature the rich and the famous. Their lives are often much messy than our own lives. Drugs, alcohol, unfaithfulness, and divorce, which are all very common among that group, is an indication their wealth and fame didn’t buy them a happy life.

If more money, a change in circumstances, or possessing new and expensive stuff won’t make you happy what will?
Many years ago a very rich and powerful man conducted what I believe is the best study in human happiness ever performed. He published his findings in a book called the Bible in a Chapter called Ecclesiastes. I’ll spend the rest of this letter sharing some of the conclusions from his study.

The Beatles were right-Money Can’t Buy Me Love (or happiness)  Finding#1  Eccl 5:10 He who loves silver will not be satisfied with silver; Nor he who loves abundance, with increase. Increasing amounts of money can’t bring permanent happiness. In fact it could lead to an obsession to earn more.

The words from the song “You Gotta Have Friends” is also true. Living life in isolation is a formula which keeps in the bad stuff of life inside. In addition it prevents the good stuff that life and relationships have to offer to enter into our lives. We were not created to live life alone.  Finding#2  Eccl 4:9-10
Two are better than one, Because they have a good reward for their labor.
For if they fall, one will lift up his companion. But woe to him who is alone when he falls,
For he has no one to help him up.

This doesn’t mean you must be married in order to be happy. There are lots of married people who are miserable. It means you need to have friends and/or family that have your back, who you can rely on, and who love you with the love that’s meaningful to you. It also means you have people in your life that you love with a sacrificial love.

Finally, if you desire to live a joyful life, it can’t be done without applying Finding #3 to your life.
 Eccl 2:24-26
 Nothing is better for a man than that he should eat and drink, and that his soul should enjoy good in his labor. This also, I saw, was from the hand of God. For who can eat, or who can have enjoyment, more than I?  For God gives wisdom and knowledge and joy to a man who is good in His sight; but to the sinner He gives the work of gathering and collecting, that he may give to him who is good.

That which will truly bless your life and provide you lasting happiness, is wisdom, knowledge and an attitude of gratitude to giver of all things. Joy comes from the hand of God.  So check your focus during the holidays. Is it about parties, presents, and shopping or good food? Or will remember Jesus is the reason for the season. We will experience His love and blessing this time of the year? Will you share those blessings with others? We you live with an attitude of gratitude for what you’ve been given, or will you be jealous of those who have more. For this season and every season of your life, happiness is a result of your attitudes and the choices you’ll make based upon what it is you value. Therefore,  CHOOSE WISELY. Remember that the Creator of this Universe wants to have an intimate relationship with you.  He’s the giver of  eternal joy. That’s a joy we experience here and now. It’s also the joy that we take with us into eternity. It’s my prayer that the joy of the Lord be with you this season and in every season of your life.

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