A truly happy Easter from the Salvation Army

2015-05-05 06:00

The attainment of happiness is one of the most fundamental of human desires. We all, at various points in our lives, want to feel that sense of well-being, satisfaction and contentment that we generally define as “happiness”.

The pursuit of happiness is such a basic human need that it was even included in the 1776 American Declaration of Independence, on which the American Constitution was built: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”

Recently, on 20 March, the world celebrated International Day of Happiness, only the third time that the United Nations has recognised the day as such.

But what is happiness? Many people equate happiness with material goods – a new car of a particularly aspirational brand, living in an upmarket suburb, sending their children to the best schools, or wearing the latest fashion in clothes, shoes and handbags.

Others live a life of “If only…”, then “I would be happy”. So, if only I was thin, I would be happy. Or, if only I could look like so-and-so, I would be happy. Or, if only I could achieve such-and-such, I would be happy.

And we do often discover moments of happiness through such pursuits. But we also often find that such happiness is transitory and can be blown away in a very short time – leading us searching for the next moment of happiness, in a never-ending quest for satisfaction.

Such seeking after happiness is essentially materialistic. It can lead us into a spiral of dissatisfaction that leads to yet more searching for the illusive happy moment. Or we can end up in a state of unmanageable debt as we frantically spend our money on what we think will make us happy.

Worse still, we are not immune from those aspects of life which tend to make us unhappy – illness, rejection, failure, disappointment, exclusion, broken relationships. These states, which some writers call “dark nights of the soul”, are usually beyond our control, and no amount of spending on material goods, or on gaining status, will protect us from them.

Christians believe that only a deep and meaningful relationship with God will help us find true and lasting happiness. At Easter time, we remember again that Jesus died for our sins in order that we may be reconciled to God through his death on the cross and his rising three days later from the dead as the Christ.

Such a relationship with God will not make us immune from these unhappy “dark nights”. God doesn’t cause these events in our lives, but God does sometimes speak to us through them, and, if we are open and trusting enough, God can lead us to new truths about ourselves, and ultimately, a deeper and more permanent sense of happiness.

Jesus himself went through a time of unhappiness, or a “dark night of the soul”, when he was in the Garden of Gethsemane, shortly before he undertook his final journey through Jerusalem to the cross on which he was crucified. Indeed, he prayed desperately to God, his Father, to remove this “cup of suffering” that he was about to experience.

As a human being, Jesus knew that his road to the cross was going to be an unhappy one; a time of loneliness, intense physical and mental pain and rejection.

Yet, he also knew that the end result was the glory of the resurrection, and the re-establishment for all people, in all ages and time, of a relationship with God and the attainment of a true state of happiness.

But don’t get me wrong: God does not call us to live in a permanent state of gloom and doom. Some of the happiest people I have ever met are filled with the joy and energy of a living relationship with God.

So, on behalf of The Salvation Army, I would like to wish you all a truly “happy” Easter. May the risen Lord Jesus be with you all

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