What Makes You Happy? Whatever it is, it Points to Something Greater

What makes you happy? That was the topic given to me for a BBC Radio 2 Pause for Thought segment recently. As usual, my Facebook friends had some great things to share, saying everything from the smell of baked bread, to seeing adversity overcome, to viewing the world through a child’s eyes, to sewing new buttons on an old waistcoat, to a good mountain bike ride, to sinking into soft pillows at the end of the day made them happy (reading their list will cheer anyone up itself). With an afternoon of journaling and reflection, here’s the list I came up with plus an epiphany: these everyday joys are a glimpse something greater.

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Pause for Thought: What Makes Me Happy

Merryn and I spent Christmas with friends on the Isle of Mull in Scotland. What an enchanted place that is. The snow-capped mountains, the rich blue sky, the vivid yellows and browns of the landscape. One moment we drove through snow storms, the next we watched the sun pierce the clouds and flood the misty valley with amber light. Sitting in the conservatory of our holiday shack we saw double rainbows from end to end. To me, Mull felt like a place of fairytales.

Natural beauty like that makes me happy. So do long train rides, second-hand bookshops, and cosy pubs on rainy days. An engaging conversation, the giggles of a child, and a reader telling me one of my books has helped them, each make me happy. As does the memory of an elderly couple I used to see at my local swimming pool: in a beautiful act of devotion, each morning the husband waited patiently to help his frail wife hobble to the change rooms after her therapy session.

The music of New Order and Florence and the Machine makes me happy. So does a good Dim Sum restaurant, crepes with sugar and lemon, and cherries dipped in dark chocolate. (To paraphrase Benjamin Franklin’s famous words, chocolate is proof enough that God exists and wants us to be happy!)

The Bible has more to say about joy than it does happiness—and for good reason. All those things that make me happy are momentary. The chocolate-dipped cherries are soon gone. After three and a half minutes the song is over. Mull’s rainbows fade as quickly as they appear. In contrast, Christian joy can be enduring. It comes from the Spirit of Christ who comes to live within us when we ask him to, and Christians throughout history have found this joy can be experienced even in unhappy times.

But my Bible also tells me that every good and perfect gift is from God, including ephemeral things like sunshine, food and happiness. God made the cherry. God gave humans the ability to make chocolate. The combination of the two is divine, however fleeting the eating experience is.

So savour today’s moments of happiness—the tastes, the conversations, the sun-lit valleys. They are momentary glimpses of a greater joy available to us.


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  • March 25, 2015
    Clare Alice

    Thanks so much for another awesome post Sheridan. I love that youve boiled down and simplified the happy v joy thing. That topic has been bugging me for a little while . There’s been times lately I’ve got into a bit of a slump because not every moment can be ‘happy’ or laughter / bliss inducing… Leading me to think ‘ oh dear why am I not happy in this moment’ and kind of grasping at the air for something that’s not at all achieved by grasping 🙂
    I would get annoyed when preachers said happiness isn’t the goal.
    But i think said preachers are right. your post has just expressed it a whole lot better: its a good reminder that, in fact, Godly enduring joy , which comes from the spirit of Christ, is always available to us in every moment… So now instead of searching frantically for happiness I can take a deep contented breath, know that Christ in me is everything I need and the hope of not only heaven but of his overcoming spirit in us, with us, all the time , is a joy greater than any of life’s circumstances or complexities. No mental gymnastics required. Just turning my heart and mind to Him. Youve really helped me out with this post, 🙂 Thanks SV!

    • March 26, 2015

      You’re a good ‘litmus test’ for a post like this at the moment, Clare. I’m really glad it helped. And as usual, you’ve added something valuable to it.

      • March 29, 2015
        Clare Alice

        Thanks for your words 🙂 and thanks for the post. It really has helped so much!


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