No surprise…according to Gallup the percentage of happy Americans recently dipped below to their lowest readings since 1948. And according to Gallup’s World Happiness report we ranked # 19 in the world. Get this, Finland, Denmark, and Iceland are the top three countries for happy citizens. I don’t know about you but I’m staying put in America. It is important, however, to understanding the meaning of “happiness” especially as we celebrate the Fourth of July.
You know, the unalienable rights that have been God-given to the United States are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Obviously, something is askew today in our pursuit of happiness. Here is what I think the problem is: happiness in Greek is derived from two words. Hedonia is a word meaning happy and refers to pleasure or doing what feels good. No doubt, you already can guess where I am going. The word “hedonistic” is tied into this understanding of happiness. Also, if you want to get Freudian simply bring-up the pleasure principle and our fragile ego considers the pursuit of happiness as a right to experience enjoyment—non-stop.
Another meaning of happiness and one understood by the writers of the Declaration, is happiness is a blessing. The word used for this understanding of happiness is makarios. No doubt, you are familiar with the Sermon on the Mount and the Beatitudes.
“How happy are the poor in spirit; theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Happy the gentle; they shall have the earth for their heritage.
Happy those who mourn; they shall be comforted” (Matthew 5:3 ff).
I could continue but I think you get the point. The Jerusalem Bible translates makarios as “happy” and so the Beatitudes open our eyes to a much different understanding than a pleasure principle. Happiness is found in reliance upon God. And by the way, in relying upon God, happiness is found in seeking meaning, purpose and virtue. It is here in this pursuit, happiness and blessings are waiting to be received.
Found in the pursuit of happiness according to Jesus and the writers of the Declaration is the development of character. It has to do with responsibility, concern for our neighbors, ideals, virtues, and commitment. Ultimately, happiness is found in our life with God and it is at the heart and soul of our character.
Sure, more sleep and exercise and eating broccoli is good for us and might help us tip the happy scale. But I hope you are catching my drift. Happiness is embedded in our relationship with God out of which character is formed. Yes, right now there is growing percentage of agnostics and atheist in our country. There is a percentage of young adults who are spiritual but not religious. And, an increasing number of Americans are not happy.
One more time, faith is a way of pursuing happiness. So too, is worship. Worship brings worth. So, are we happy? Put it this way: the trials or better yet the crucibles of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness have been tested and no doubt will continue to be challenged. Herein lies the blessing that is waiting to be discovered time and again keeping the pursuit of happiness and the development of our character always before us. Happy Fourth!