In 2000 Kalle Lasn and Bruce Grierson, writing for Utne Reader, asked the question: “The economy is out of sight. Unimaginable luxury is all around. America rules the world. So why are Americans so unhappy?” They went on to conclude, “Something is missing. Something essential and meaningful has been displaced by something . . . hollow.”
A study released last week might give us a clue about that “something” that is missing. Sarah Pulliam Bailey, writing for the Washington Post, reported, “A study in the American Journal of Epidemiology by researchers at the London School of Economics and Erasmus University Medical Center in the Netherlands found that the secret to sustained happiness lies in participation in religion.” The researchers discovered that participation in religious organization was the only activity associated with sustained happiness.
Why would this be? It seems the clues are rather obvious. Faith in Christ leads to the character traits and practices that promote happiness and fulfillment: honesty, truthfulness, loyalty, humility, generosity and love for God and others. Living life in this way creates more fulfilling relationships in the family, business and the community.
When these traits are combined with a confidence that we are loved by God, that our lives have meaning and purpose, that we can be forgiven for our sins as we also forgive others, they add up to a powerful recipe for happiness.
I have been blessed with a long life, almost seven decades. This has given time for perspective. I have watched those who lived lives of faith who, as they grow older, increase in happiness, fulfilment and satisfaction. And, I have watched others who chose a path pursuing pleasure, taking dishonest shortcuts they thought would lead to success and wealth, who have grown cynical, bitter and disillusioned.
In the end, the latter wither away, isolated and alone, like Michael Corleone, in the final scene of The Godfather Part III. The former, those who choose faith and involvement in Christian community, grow old with a twinkle in their eye and a smile upon their lips, grateful for God’s blessings in this life and expectant of the life to come.
Jesus told the truth when He said, “I am come that you might have life and have it more abundantly.” (John 10:10). “In this world you will have difficulty. Be of good cheer. I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33).