Finding Joy During a Recession
Most people in the Western world seem rich and increased with goods. Incomes have doubled and even tripled over the last 50 years. Yet, each year, fewer and fewer people consider themselves “very happy.” And with the world dealing with an increasingly bleak economic outlook, depression and frustration are affecting many more.
Are you truly happy? If so, you are one of a dwindling few.
The story of wealth failing to engender real happiness is a more common story of the Western world. And it is a sad story, because happiness is correlated to all kinds of benefits, including long life, abundant health, resilience and good performance.
Unfortunately, most people don’t know what real happiness is, or how to receive it. Most people think happiness comes from self-gratification, through the physical comforts, the toys, and the exotic vacations. Others seek after psychological rewards such as being accepted and appreciated. But any joy that comes from physical pleasure is only temporary.
There is, however, a formula that leads to true, lasting joy and happiness, as well as physical abundance.
“Happiness is something that one can never reach out and take,” wrote Herbert W. Armstrong. “It comes only by finding God’s basic inexorable, spiritual law—the way of love, the way of giving, of serving, of doing good. The true basis of happiness is spiritual, not material” (Plain Truth, November 1984).
If only more people understood this basic truth. How many people have spent their whole lives in the pursuit of riches, neglecting family, friends and their health? And then—whether rich or not—at the end, die unhappy and alone. J. Paul Getty, for example, was supposedly the 43rd richest man in human history. Yet, for all of his fabulous wealth, Getty is reputed to have said he would have given it all up for one happy marriage.
“Seek ye first the kingdom of God,” said Jesus Christ. Seek the government of God, the government of the Creator of the universe and everything in it. Seek first His Kingdom, and every other blessing will be added. This is the key to true happiness and fulfillment.
To do this, you will have to live by every word of God. You will have to study the Bible to find out how to live. And you may be surprised to find out how different the rest of the world lives compared to God’s commanded way of life.
But if you do this, God will make available a dynamic power to help you. “We need to receive and be filled with this dynamic power from above—from God Almighty—the very Spirit of God, the spirit of love and of understanding and wisdom, the spirit of faith, the spirit of patience, of power for self-mastery,” wrote Mr. Armstrong. “If you do, your life will be energized, it will become successful, it will become full and complete, it will become happy. And you’ll be prosperous in the long run” (ibid.).
You must first study to find the true way of life, to show yourself approved before God. Then devote yourself secondarily to your job, your work, your profession. This might sound counterintuitive at first, but it is a law of God that leads to real prosperity. Seek Him first, then all else will come. (To learn God’s laws of life and how to apply them, request a free enrollment in the Herbert W. Armstrong College Bible Correspondence Course.) And what you set your hand to do, do with your might, with all of your energy, as God commands.
The result will be that you will free your mind from anxious concern, worry and fears. You will have faith, relying upon God’s guidance and help. You will always try your best, but trust God with the result. You will find real peace, happiness and joy first of all. The consequence will be material prosperity and happiness, within God’s reasonable due time.
Jesus Christ, in some of His last instructions to His followers before His death, revealed how we can be happy. “If ye keep my commandments, ye shall abide in my love; even as I have kept my Father’s commandments, and abide in his love. These things have I spoken unto you, that my joy might remain in you, and that your joy might be full” (John 15:10-11).
The only way to experience true happiness is to keep God’s commandments, so you can have His joy in you. The Ten Commandments are proven laws. God designed them to produce all the good that men desire. The cause of all human suffering is the rejection and transgression of those laws. Yet, today, many view the Ten Commandments as a restrictive law that takes all the fun and happiness out of life. That is a belief based upon ignorance.
Even secular authorities and scientists see the value in keeping the commandments—although they don’t often realize or admit it.
Healthy relationships with family and friends are a major key to making us happy, claim scientists. Research is now showing that just as stress can trigger ill health, deep relationships with family and friends can have a protective effect. It is even suggested that friendship can actually ward off germs. Marriage is another important contributor to happiness. Studies show that not only do married people report higher levels of happiness but that marriage adds an average of four years to the life of a woman, and a whopping seven years to that of a man.
If you study the Ten Commandments, you will realize that God designed them to govern all of our relationships. The last six are specifically designed to teach people how to show love to each other. Love is the deepest of all relationships. If you obey God’s law—which is love (Romans 13:10)—healthy marriages and healthy relationships are the natural result.
Being content with what we have also makes us happy, say researchers. But “we tend to see our life as judged against other people” (bbc, April 30, 2006). People compare themselves with each other, despite God’s clear admonition not to (2 Corinthians 10:12). Inevitably, things always seem to be greener on the other side of the fence. It is human nature to want what others have, and then once you have it, to want something else. It is all part of the “keeping up with the Joneses” syndrome—in other words, coveting, which God specifically forbids in the Tenth Commandment.
Giving thanks and vocalizing the blessings we do have is another key to happiness (Ephesians 5:20). Simply writing down three things that went well during the day and why, or writing a note of gratitude and delivering it personally produced better results in an uncontrolled study of 500 participants than anti-depressant medication and psychotherapy, said Prof. Martin Seligman, director of the Positive Psychology Center at the University of Pennsylvania. In his study, 94 percent of severely depressed people became less depressed and 92 percent became happier, with an average symptom relief of an astounding 50 percent over only 15 days. If you understand the Tenth Commandment, you also know that being grateful is part of fulfilling that command.
There are two other commonly cited ingredients of happiness. Researchers say the happiest people are those who have a “belief in something bigger than oneself” and a long-term goal that they are working toward.
And that takes us back to Matthew 6:33 and Jesus’s formula for happiness and success: “Seek ye first the kingdom of God.” The hope of the coming Kingdom of God should be the driving motivator behind all of our actions. Seeking that Kingdom should be our goal. And then, as the rest of the scripture says, all the rest “shall be added unto you.”
That is how you can find true joy, happiness, abundant health and prosperity—and all you could ever hope for—even during a recession!