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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