“In every life we have some trouble
When you worry you make it double
Don’t worry, be happy…” [Bobby McFerrin]
“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” [Romans 8:28 TNIV]
Feeling happy? Probably not if we are to believe Kalle Lasn. In his book Culture Jam, he writes:
“Worldwide rates of major depression in every age group have risen steadily since the 1940s. Rates of suicide, unipolar disorder, bipolar disorder and alcoholism have all climbed significantly. The U.S. has a higher rate of depression than almost every other country, and cross-cultural data show that as Asian countries Americanize, their rates of depression increase accordingly.”
Not feeling too hot then? Well help is on the way. Here are eight suggestions for a more satisfying life:
1. Count your blessings.
2. Practice acts of kindness.
3. Savour life’s joys.
4. Thank a mentor.
5. Learn to forgive.
6. Invest time and energy in friends and family.
7. Take care of your body.
8. Develop strategies for coping with stress and hardship.
Want to know which Christian magazine I got that list from? Surprise! I got that list from the February 28th 2005 Asian Edition of TIME Magazine.
In an article entitled “Eight Steps Toward a More Satisfying Life” (32-33), University of California psychologist Sonja Lyubomirsky gives these eight practical suggestions for lifting one’s level of happiness, based on research findings.
The list sounds incredibly biblical doesn’t it? Let me do some “proof-texting.”
1. Count your blessings. “Praise the Lord, my soul, and forget not all his benefits?” [Psalm 103:2]
2. Practice acts of kindness. “Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers.” [Galatians 6:10]
3. Savour life’s joys. “Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything to enjoy.” [1Timothy 6:17]
4. Thank a mentor. “Now we ask you, brothers and sisters, to acknowledge those who work hard among you, who care for you in the Lord and who admonish you. Hold them in the highest regard in love because of their work.” [1Thessalonians 5:12-13a]
5. Learn to forgive. “Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.” [Colossians 3:13]
6. Invest time and energy in friends and family. “Wives, submit yourselves to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord. Husbands, love your wives and do not be harsh with them.” [Colossians 3:18-19] “Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. ‘Honor your father and mother’-which is the first commandment with a promise- ‘so that it may go well with you and that you may enjoy long life on the earth.'” Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord. [Ephesians 6:1-4]
7. Take care of your body. “For physical training is of some value” [1Timothy 4:8a]
8. Develop strategies for coping with stress and hardship. “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” [James 1:2-4]
As I worked through the list it struck me afresh how given time, empirical research seems to confirm the veracity of what is given us in God’s Word. I am finishing a paper on servant leadership, where surprise, surprise, the bases for”modern” buzz words in leadership literature, like servant-leadership, teamwork, stewardship and work-life balance, can all be found way back in Genesis 1 and 2.
Christians need not be apologetic in positing that what the Bible teaches is true and true for all. Indeed, in an increasingly pragmatic world that asks what works, we can say the Bible does. And the Bible works because it is true.
We need to maintain the goodness of the truths of Scripture for all humankind because there will be those who will try to relegate Christian truths to some never-never land of religious truth and therefore not applicable to daily life.
As my theology professor the late Dr. Klaus Bockmuehl used to remind us, God the lawgiver is also God the Creator. Therefore the laws He gives us are not arbitrary but correspond to what is real.
Of course there will be those who will want to appropriate the principles of Scripture but ignore the God of the Scriptures. They will soon learn that the principles will only go so far without their source.
Take forgiveness for example. Doctors have known for a long time that carrying anger and hatred against those who hurt you will destroy you. Everyone agrees that we should forgive. But can one truly forgive if one has not first received the forgiveness of Jesus?
And can we really see the hardships of our life as serving to mature us if we do not first believe that life is not meaningless and arbitrary, and that we have a God who works all things for good?
Count our blessings, yes. But who is the Blesser?
No, in the long run, we can’t really separate the principles of the Bible from the God of the Bible.
I believe the ultimate answer to human kind’s problems, including the search for emotional well-being, lies in a personal relationship with God through Jesus Christ. Unfortunately, in our post-modern world, the first question may not be “what is true,” but “what works.”
In gentleness and humility, let us present God’s answers to the basic needs of humankind. Articles like Lyubomirsky’s, are a good bridge. At least let’s get the conversation going and hopefully we won’t get too far before we all realize that what we really need is God.
“You have made known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand.” [Psalm 16:11]