Everyone wants to be happy. Our Declaration of Independence states that one of our inalienable rights is the pursuit of happiness. So, as Americans, we have a right (given by God) to pursue happiness. Are we happy? Maybe. Maybe not. The World Happiness Report ranks America as the 17th happiest country in the world. Granted, this is a subjective report, based on how people rate their overall happiness. But, according to this report, as other nations' happiness rankings are rising, ours is falling. We currently rank behind Canada, Costa Rica, and Mexico. Only 33% of our population regard themselves as very happy, down from 35% in 2008 and 2009. Despite our standard of living and our material wealth we are less happy. Why is our happiness quotient falling? The report sites greater instances of depression and anxiety as contributors to our unhappiness. Age plays a role, with younger people being less happy than older people.
In addition, a very high percentage of people regard themselves as either religious and or spiritual (maybe as high as 90% of our population). Should these people not be happy? If a person truly believes in God, a God who is a God of love, a God of mercy and grace, a God who forgives and gives second chances, should this person not be ecstatically joyous? Should spiritual people (even those who are not religious) not know peace in the midst of chaos? Should this not be cause for great happiness?
If so, why are we not 90% happy? Because we have been pursuing our religion and our spirituality as if they are material things. And in this pursuit, if we are not careful, we may lose our faith in a God of love while pursuing tangible, material proof of God's love through our vision and mission statements; our goals and objectives; our budgets and expense reports; our building renovations; our progress dashboards (with green lights, yellow lights, and red lights); our committees and structures and our systems. God's presence cannot be reduced to the slogan, "if we are not growing we are dying".
It is my belief, that God wants us to be happy. After all, we were created to be in relationship with God. The fact that we are not happy has more to do with our own failure to take God's hand and walk as a child of God. Buddha once said, "Your work is to discover your work and then with all of your heart give yourself to it," We must discover ourselves as children of God, then with all of our hearts give ourselves to living as children of God. This is the path to true happiness.
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