The Happiness Report
April 12, 2017 | by: Dave Maniquis | 0 Comments
Posted in: Theology
Contentment is one of those loosey goosey words. For one person’s contentedness might be another’s nightmare. One person is content with the bare necessities of life such as a roof over their head and fish tacos. The same sustained situation would make another’s expression make the subject in Edvard Munch’s portrait The Scream look like Humpy-Dumpy. Of course, social/geo/eco context is everything. “What? No Wi-Fi? What’s the point of living?”
The point is that you should be content and happy despite what life is throwing at you, whether it’s getting your head lopped off by some radical terrorist or having your steak too well-done. And if you need proof that you should be happy despite not being so there’s relief. It’s UN Resolution 66/281. Yep, the United Nations General Assembly unanimously adopted the resolution and established the “International Day of Happiness” that’s celebrated on March 20th. So get in front of a mirror and begin practicing that grin today so you’ll be ready. No crankiness, no being moody…just be happy!
In fact, I recently read the following in the UN’s guide entitled worldhappiness.report: “The World Happiness Report is a landmark survey of the state of global happiness. The first report was published in 2012, the second in 2013, and the third in 2015. The World Happiness Report 2016 Update, which ranks 156 countries by their happiness levels, was released today in Rome in advance of UN World Happiness Day, March 20th. Leading experts across fields – economics, psychology, survey analysis, national statistics, health, public policy and more – describe how measurements of well-being can be used effectively to assess the progress of nations. The reports review the state of happiness in the world today and show how the new science of happiness explains personal and national variations in happiness. They reflect a new worldwide demand for more attention to happiness as a criterion for government policy.”
Whew! Finally! An updated report that can, indeed, tell me whether I’m happy or not. Notice in the statement that there’s no “leading expert” in the field of comparative religions in general or theology in particular. But that’s okay, I’ll just wing it.
Up and against this “science of happiness” is one criterion for happiness, which Christianity refers to as contentment. However, it does call for a person to budge from the promises of secularism to the promise of the Gospel:
• The Apostle Paul clearly expresses it,“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 everything through him who gives me strength. (Philippians 4:12–13; NIV84)
• The writer of Hebrews, echoing Deuteronomy 31:6, maintains, “Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.” (Hebrews 13:5; NIV84)
• And, of course, there’s Paul to his young protégé, “But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that. (1 Timothy 6:6–8; NIV84)
My thoughts drift to why God’s Word emphasizes this theology of contentment. And then, by the indwelt Holy Spirit in my soul, given by God’s grace, it comes to me: if I’m made in the image of God, I can experience contentment because God is content with Himself. He needs nothing in the material world, He needs nothing in the spiritual realm, he needs nothing in….well, you get the picture. In fact, he doesn’t need us. When it comes down to it, God is comprehensively content and capable of enjoying His own company. And He has been so eternally. Does this make your head explode? If you’re human it should since God expands His own contentedness to people who can live in His likeness.
As Christians, Jesus calls us to an attitudinal adjustment. On the futility of discontent and the drive towards incessant fulfillment, Jesus teaches, “For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” (Matthew 6:32–34; NIV84) Therefore, being a malcontent, according to Jesus, is sin and it puts us in the same category as those who do not know God. That’s because there is a lack of faith, of trust, in God. As Larry Burkett phrased it, “One of the great mysteries of Christianity is contentment. At least one must presume it is a mystery, because so few people live it. Yet contentment is not something that’s found; it is an attitude.”
Jesus has given us the definitive Eternal Happiness Report. It’s spelled out in the revelation of God’s plan of contentment for you and me in the pages of Scripture and confirmed by the Holy Spirit who is the Counselor of our souls. It has culminated with the promise of equipping us to face the day-to-day difficulties that seek to rob us of the contentment secured by Jesus: “And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” (Matthew 28:10; NIV84) Out of His great love for His people God the Father has provided the means of contentment through His Son Jesus Christ.
"True contentment is a real, even an active, virtue - not only affirmative but creative. It is the power of getting out of any situation all there is in it." -G.K. Chesterton
Dave Maniquis is a Teaching Elder at Restoration Church. He holds a BA in History from Rutgers University and an MA in Biblical Studies from Reformed Theological Seminary. He enjoyed a 23-year career in the U.S. government, working and traveling extensively in Western and Eastern Europe. He has been a Christian for most of his adult life and has been involved in church planting, overseas as well as here in Port Orange, teaching the Bible and speaking into others’ lives with the Gospel. He is married to Maureen and they have two wonderful sons, Dylan and Evan.