It is easy to believe that our happiness depends on things outside us – wealth, “success,” status. But is this true? When the children got their presents at Christmas, they were over the moon but that happiness did not last long. The happiness of so many married couples on their wedding day lasts only a few years. Some people have a naturally happier disposition than others.
According to one author, happiness is an inside job. In other words, it does not depend on external things but on inner ones, i.e. attitudes and beliefs.
A happy person in biblical times was Asher. He was Jacob’s seventh son. His name literally means happy or blessed. We are taught in the Writings of Emanuel Swedenborg that the twelve sons represent all the spiritual qualities found in a loving and wise human being. Happiness is one of them. So, yes, God’s goal for all of us is to find the happiness of heaven. Our problem is that we often suffer the illusion that happiness is an “outside” job and not an “inside” job. Asher represents happiness that comes from charity. Here charity does not mean giving to the poor but acting from a love for our neighbour.
Spiritually, our “neighbour” is what is good. This goodness is the presence of the Lord in ourselves, others, organisations and communities. If we seek to love and serve this in our work and relationships we will find the happiness of heaven growing within us. It will be quietly present despite difficult and unhappy circumstances. If we can continue to patiently and courageously love what is good then God can flow into the situation and in time will be able to bring good out of it not only for us but good for all. This is what many have found who have had to face the consequences of disability and disease. They become opportunities to find a deeper happiness.
This is in contrast to the experience of people who love themselves and material things above everything else. God’s blessedness does not exist in any way at all with those whose dominant delight is that of self-love and worldliness, for these loves are quite the opposite of it. People ruled by these loves, therefore, are not at all able to understand how any blessedness can exist apart from that of being promoted to important positions, being venerated as if they were gods, having an abundance of riches, and possessing more wealth than others.
Do notice the list of priorities for people who have self love and worldliness as their motivating loves. This is the list which the world promotes through the media and accomplishments of many of the rich and powerful. The media also shows us the sad consequences for many of them in realising their dreams of happiness. Despite this, we human beings are still attracted to them like moths to a candle.
The new year is a good opportunity to run our goals and ambitions for the coming year past God, the Source of all happiness. We may need to adjust and balance them before being fully committed to them. He is quite clear in his guidance to us. “What does the Lord require of you but to do justly, to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God” (Micah 6:8).