by Michael Bellamy.

What makes us happy? A sun-drenched beach perhaps, a great job or maybe a sense of achieving something? Personally, I’d settle for some good coffee, good company and an insanely chocolatey brownie. There are many things we might identify as a source of happiness. But wouldn’t it be great if there was one all-encompassing secret ingredient – a common denominator that would apply to just about any circumstance? Well maybe there is…

The Harvard Grant longitudinal study, which spanned 75 years, came up with as decisive an answer as is reasonably possible. They found that the key to happiness in our lives is good, close relationship. That which we attain through our faith, our partner, our family or friendships, is a key ingredient to happiness. Or to quote Prof. George valiant of the Grant Study ‘happiness is love’.

It should be no surprise to us really. Living in community has always been the way we humans have survived and thrived. It’s the way God made us! Getting support from others where we need it has never been a sign of weakness – more a part of being human.

If happiness is love, then our greatest joy comes from knowing God’s love and being in close relationship with Him through Jesus who made the way possible for us. The joy of the Christian faith is knowing we are eternally secure in Christ. We have been given all we need for a purposeful and godly life (2 Peter 1:3), we are loved (Romans 8:38-39), accepted and highly valued (Ephesians 2:6).

When we are struggling, we tend to rely on our familiar ‘safety’ patterns, behaviours which are many and varied but can often lead to isolation. We often hear people say ‘I don’t want to be a burden’. Yet in doing so, we deny others the chance to stand with us, at least in part and deny ourselves the boost we often gain from sharing a problem with those we know and trust. At Heart for Truth we know that a hurting person who is part of a team of role filling friends (with Christ at the heart), has what’s needed for reaching a place of restoration and freedom. That’s why we visit churches and help them set up ‘Truth Teams’ to support the hurting effectively.

Happiness, like our coping in difficulty, is determined not by our circumstances but how we perceive them. Good, supportive Relationships can help us gain perspective and give our hope the spur it needs.

Abraham Lincoln gave us the following adage, “Folks are usually about as happy as they make their minds up to be.”  Ah, if only it were so easy!!!! But the fact still remains, what we choose to believe makes all the difference in how we cope and recover from adversity; and one thing always holds true  – Jesus gives us every reason to live joyfully.

Photo: Happiness by James Baker (CC BY 2.0)

articles: Harvard Gazette: Good genes are nice, but joy is better, by Liz Mineo