People in response to the question what do you want in life will often say, ‘To be happy or to have a happy life.’
All of us would probably agree with that. St Paul agrees today in Philippians 4:4-7 when he says, ‘I want you to be happy, always happy in the Lord’, what I want is your happiness’.
Of course, there are all kinds of things that can make us unhappy. Situations not working out, relationships breaking down, misunderstandings and regrets.
If someone asked you what the secret of happiness was, I am sure through your experience and your faith you could give it a good shot. Other people of course would give quite opposing views according to their value system.
"What Must We Do?"
St Paul mentions tolerance as one of the virtues that leads to happiness. He also mentions praying for what we need and being thankful because the Lord is very near to us. There is real wisdom here because even though we experience unhappy situations, knowing Christ is near us and with us, loving us and concerned for our needs makes a huge difference and attempts at understanding where other people are coming from can make for happier relationships, families and communities.
The people ask John the Baptist in Luke 3:10-18 ‘What must we do?’ The question is not specifically about happiness but in some ways, it is connected. What must we do to be happy? What must we do to ensure the happiness of others?
Sharing from our abundance with those who have very little is one way. John was very aware of the social imbalance of his time and riled against it. He gave advice to people we know who were not particularly popular, the tax collectors and soldiers on how to be content, exact no more than your rate and avoid intimidation and extortion. How many people’s lives in our world today have been made miserable and unhappy by people who use tactics of intimidation and force?
Elements of Christ’s ministry to come are echoed in John’s words.
John has a sense of who he is and who he isn’t. ‘I baptise you with water, but someone is coming, someone who is more powerful than I am, and I am not fit to undo the strap of his sandals’. I think when we have a sense of ourselves, what our gifts are, what we are capable of and are realistic about the contribution we can make when we are a lot happier. We can’t do everything. It doesn’t all rely on us. Other people have gifts and talents which I need to recognise and acknowledge and allow to shine.
At times what we have to offer will seem inadequate. We won't always have the answers.
Happiness is knowing that it’s not all up to us anyway. Knowing that Christ and the gift of his Spirit guards our hearts and our thoughts gives a great sense of confidence. John trusted in the one to come. Our happiness flows from trusting in the one who’s coming we will soon celebrate.
The one who is very near to us.
Listen to ‘Let Love Free’ from ‘Holy Land’.
Knowing that we are loved and having the confidence to share that love with one another brings true happiness.