Do you ever feel as if you need a reason to be glad? That there's nothing in your life to be happy about? I know I've felt that way. Conflicting messages about happiness abound in the world today, messages that tell us we have to have certain things to be happy, certain people in our lives, a certain kind of career. Many of us have already found, however, that people, jobs, and things don't satisfy a deep inner hunger for permanent satisfaction and peace.
So where do we look? The book of Jeremiah represents God as saying, "I will turn their mourning into joy, and will comfort them, and make them rejoice from their sorrow." And in Psalms we find: "Hear, O Lord, and have mercy upon me: Lord, be thou my helper. Thou hast turned for me my mourning into dancing: thou hast put off my sackcloth, and girded me with gladness." We can identify with the heartfelt prayer of the Psalmist as we, too, expectantly turn to God.
What we need, though, is more than a good human reason to be happy. We need to understand that there's a scientific basis for joy, that joy is not a transient, fragile quality. We have a right to be consistently happy because joy is a quality of God, a quality of Spirit, an irrepressible, irresistible manifestation of God's being. As God's spiritual idea, His image and likeness, each one of us is already, in actuality, complete and satisfied.
Human experience seems to be a conglomeration of good and evil, joy and sorrow, mourning and celebration, freedom and bondage. We're often led to believe we can't have the good without the bad. But the teachings of Christian Science help us see that there is no dualism in God's creation, that in fact, God's allness precludes any supposed power opposed to His infinite goodness.
Christ Jesus proved God's power to be greater than the so-called presence of evil. He healed the sick and sinful and restored the brokenhearted, demonstrating that Christ, God's healing influence, redeems and saves mankind, physically, morally, and spiritually. Christ is what impels us, even in the darkest hour, to have hope. Christ shows us that beyond the limited, mortal perception of man there is a flawless child of God waiting to be discovered.
In Science and Health Mrs. Eddy, the Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science, points to the change in perspective that is required for us to begin to realize more of our true nature and to find lasting spiritual joy. She writes: "A mortal, corporeal, or finite conception of God cannot embrace the glories of limitless, incorporeal Life and Love. Hence the unsatisfied human craving for something better, higher, holier, than is afforded by a material belief in a physical God and man. The insufficiency of this belief to supply the true idea proves the falsity of material belief."
When we're willing to put off "a material belief in a physical God and man"—when we're willing to seek an understanding of our true selfhood as God's spiritual offspring—we begin to find the sweet satisfaction that we long for. This joy is inherent in each one of us right now. As our concept of God and of who we are is clarified, unhappiness and depression inevitably vanish as darkness before light.
During my senior year in college, I hungered for true happiness. At the beginning of fall quarter, I became extremely depressed. There didn't seem to be any particular cause for this unhappiness; I just felt empty, worthless, alone, and unmotivated. Nothing I did seemed to penetrate the darkness I felt inside. I found it difficult to get up in the morning and nearly impossible to work on my senior thesis.
Christ shows us that beyond the limited, mortal perception of man there is a flawless child of God waiting to be discovered.
More than two months went by, and the situation changed very little—except that I had less than a month to write my entire thesis! The night before Thanksgiving, things came to a head. Alone in a dark house, I began to pace the floor. I found it difficult to see beyond the sense of hopelessness and despair I was feeling. I wanted out. Mentally I threw myself into God's hands, asking Him for direction. As I did so, a quiet thought came to me: "I'm not going to let you go."
Right then I felt embraced in God's love, assured that He was not giving up on me—that there was more to me, and more to life, than sadness and frustration. I stopped rehearsing my woes and began to listen for what spiritual intuition was telling me. The word commitment came to mind. As I thought about it, I realized that although I felt as if I had been struggling for a long time, my actual efforts to find resolution had been haphazard and noncommittal.
That night I resolved to learn more about God. I decided I would read the whole Bible Lesson, found in the Christian Science Quarterly—not just a section or two—every day. I would go to church regularly. I would put God first.
Almost immediately after I made this decision, things began to improve. I woke up each morning eager to begin my day. I found new incentive to work on my thesis. What I was learning about God began transforming my outlook from a sense of fear and discouragement to expectancy, hope, and joy!
What a revelation all of this was to me. I saw that my happiness wasn't dependent on the people I was with or the work I was doing. Spiritual joy, flowing from the fount of God's omnipotent goodness, is eternal, ever present. It can't be hidden or taken away.
Since that year I've had many opportunities to gain a deeper appreciation for the joy that comes from God. While there still may be times when I have to grapple with sadness, there never has been a return of the depression I felt during those months. I've come to see more clearly that God empowers us to defend our joy and peace. Held eternally in God's love, we need not fear any other supposed power. Christ is always at hand to dispel any suggestion of a power apart from God, good.
Being happy isn't a question of circumstances. As we get to know God better, and who we really are as His expression, we'll find that we can confront our own difficulties—and reach out to others—with the unshakable conviction of His allness. We'll begin to feel something of the true, God-derived joy that belongs to each of us, always.