We said in the previous post that Happiness is a Virtue. It surprised me to learn that my little Orthodox Prayer book listed happiness right next to humility, chastity, etc. I was happy to find that being happy is a virtue one can acquire. Happiness is defined as being well adapted, able to show joy, take pleasure in life as it has been given. Essentially we are defining happiness as the art of being content. It takes spiritual fortitude to keep that the definition. Advertisers try to convince us that happiness is about stuff and shortcuts.
We get plastic surgery. We quit, we lie, we pretend, we buy things, we leave, we cheat here and there all in the name of a happiness grab. We wait in lines for latest things (you know who you are Fr. James). But stuff does not make us happy.
Larry King had a panel of experts on a few years ago. Maybe you caught it. One expert was a brain-mapper (whatever that it), one was a psychologist, the other expert was a motivational speaker and all were on the show to talk about the secret of happiness. They chat for a while and then Larry got them to distil it down to what is the secret to a happy life. All of them in one way or another said, “everyday when you wake up go over a list of things you are thankful for in your life. And at the end of the day review the day and focused your attention on giving thanks.” They said it a little different but I believe that they were 100% right. Every commercial is about what you don’t have. We spend a lot of time of thinking about what we don’t have and on what is wrong.
Maybe you know the story of Jesus healing the 10 lepers who stood at a distance and lifted up their voices and said, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us.” When He saw them He said to them, “Go and show yourselves to the priests.” And as they went they were cleansed. Then one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, praising God with a loud voice; and he fell on his face at Jesus’ feet, giving Him thanks. Now he was a Samaritan. Then Jesus said, “Were not ten cleansed? Where are the nine? Was no one found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?” And He said to him, “Rise and go your way; your faith has made you well.” St. Luke 17:12-19
This is St. Paul’s advice is the absolute earliest new testament letter.
Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18
We don’t need to say thanks for the car wreck (especially not in the moment). But this is possible in a heart that is deeply gratefulness.
“Have no anxiety about anything but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God which passes all understanding, will keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:6-7
I know some of us are miserable right now. We have terrible circumstances. Still, there is so much to be thankful for. We need to focus and thank God for what we have rather than focusing on what we do not have. We are rich. The secret to happiness is gratitude. How different would the day be if we focused on what we are thankful for?