Tuesday, 17 August 2021
Title: Pursuit Of Happiness
By: Shaun Ling
Text: Philippians 4:12
“I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.”
What really makes one happy?
Ironically, I will start with a sad story. My ex-neighbour was seemingly the epitome of a wonderful marriage – husband and wife in stable jobs, with 3 young and very smart kids. What disguises the happy façade was laid bare one day when the wife told me and my brother that her marriage was falling apart. He was seeing another woman and was contemplating shifting out that very night. I could not really remember much about the conversation except that she’d said something that struck a chord with me. She recounted that when she and her husband were poor and could not make ends meet, they were far happier but when wealth and opportunity came around especially for her husband, things went awry.
Is true happiness achievable or is it, in fact elusive? As I reflect on this, I am inclined to the latter.
Advertisements promise that a Rolex will get me instant status, a no-effort diet will transform my life, and an endless supply of Netflix, Disney Hotstar and the like will give me smiles and happiness. But soon enough, when the pleasures of all these are set aside, we return to the real world of cranky neighbours, a house that’s falling apart and broken relationships. Thus, true happiness must be rooted in reality.
And then it hits me! Real happiness involves struggle and pain. As Augustine once said, “Everywhere a greater joy is preceded by a greater suffering”. Much like someone who has an itch and to finally get away from friends and go to a hiding place where he can scratch to his heart’s content. Or someone who lived in a desert yearning for rain, how sweet it is to have rain fall on their bare skin. Or for me, to finish my first full marathon, the anguish of the hours of tiredness and pain was immediately replaced with unbridled joy at the sight of the finish line and the cheap medal that I will cherish forever.
To experience happiness, we need to experience pain whether in ourselves or in people we care about. There are good and bad days but when we see the results of our perseverance, a sense of pride and joy wells up within us.
Which reminds me of Phil 4:11-13, a statement from a prisoner writing from his prison cell, “I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength.”
Happiness can indeed emanate from a sense of contentment. And this can be cultivated (but it may take a long time) and most importantly, is within our control. The assurance of God’s presence and being in our lives, despite our circumstances. Just as Paul has a purpose to bring meaning in the life of others by preaching Christ, we too can find our purpose where God calls us however insignificant it may be. Perhaps we are called to serve others. Maybe we are called to be encouragers. Many have the gift of giving. Others would quietly serve by doing menial tasks.
The pursuit of happiness may well be found when we are content in God’s purpose in our lives.
Prayer: Father, You have brought us to being that we may enjoy You in our finite and short lives. Help us Lord to appreciate that we live for You and pursue happiness that has its foundation in You and You alone. Help us to be grateful for what You have given us and that we can learn to continually align our attitude to Yours. Amen
讽刺地，我将从一个不幸的故事开始。我的前邻居看似是一段美满婚姻的缩影 – 丈夫和妻子有稳定的工作，有3个年幼并且非常聪明的孩子。有一天，当那位妻子告诉我和弟弟她的婚姻即将破裂时，隐藏在幸福外表下的东西被揭露了。她的丈夫与另一个女人幽会并打算当天晚上搬出去。我不太记得那次谈话的内容了，只记得她说了一些触动我的心的话。她回忆说，当她和丈夫贫穷并入不敷出时，他们幸福得多，但是当财富和机会到来时，特别是对她的丈夫来说，事情就出现问题了。