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Don't put happiness on hold

From the April 23, 2012 issue of the Christian Science Sentinel

Happiness is dangled before us in many subtle and sometimes blatant ways during the course of our everyday lives. It’s often presented as something that awaits us, and often involves acquiring one product or another to complete the prospect. Very rarely is the case made that we already have it.

So it’s not unusual that we may find ourselves thinking of happiness in these terms—as something we would love to attain, but is just out of our grasp. It will come perhaps with the right friendship, with marriage, with children, or with the perfect job. It may be ours when our bodies shape up, or when a nagging complaint fades away. If we could find a better apartment, pay all our bills, improve a grade point average, or leave home—then we would be happy.

Nevertheless, the case has already been made, and convincingly, by Christ Jesus’ teachings, that we are in fact inherently happy. In the summary of his teaching called the Sermon on the Mount, God’s children are described as fully happy. In the familiar King James Version of the Bible, the beatitudes begin with “Blessed are . . .” (see Matthew 5:3–12). In several other translations, the word blessed is replaced with “happy.” And the Amplified Bible follows the word blessed with this amplification: “happy, blithesome, joyous, spiritually prosperous—with life-joy and satisfaction in God’s favor and salvation, regardless of their outward conditions” (verse 5). In the Master’s statement that concludes the chapter, he declares, “Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect” (Matthew 5:48). 

As students of the divine Science Jesus exemplified, we agree with this description of spiritual man, God’s child, as complete, perfect, deeply satisfied. Our willingness to defy limited concepts about ourselves and about others as imperfect and unhappy mortals is the real opportunity of a Christian. The spiritual fact is that man is immortal, God’s creation, entirely spiritual, fully equipped by God to express the fullness and happiness that characterize His universe of good.

Things that seemed obstacles will become like ascending treads on a ladder, enhancing your view.

I began to discover this when my husband was in graduate school and I was working for the university he was attending. During this period our happiness seemed to be on hold. We lived in a very small apartment. He spent much of his time studying and writing papers for his degree, and I spent some of that time wondering where we would live after his program was complete. Not only where, but how. What would I do? How would we ever pay back the school debt we’d accumulated? Hours went by as I circled around in this kind of speculation. It was Sunday, and time for our weekly routine—to go out for lunch and an ice cream sundae treat after church. Finally, as I put my spoon down after one of those long dreaming sessions, it came to me like a flash. Stop putting off God! 

You see, it was also my routine to pray daily. And in that daily prayer, I would confirm God’s ever-presence, His goodness, allness, and love. I agreed that God was governing our lives and caring for our needs, yet, I had been in a way “put to sleep” by the common definition of what constitutes happiness. I’d mistakenly accepted that it wasn’t a present condition, but an aspiration. From that day on, I stopped indulging in what might be, and rejoiced in the present goodness of God. I rejected the belief that happiness is circumstantial, and accepted instead that God’s goodness does not wax and wane, but is always with us. Happiness, I began to see, was as innate to us as wetness is to water, or as brightness is to sunshine. 

As my husband’s schoolwork concluded, there was a natural and easy unfoldment of the next steps. Although he got a job, as did I, I found there was no accompanying exhilaration in these changes, as I had once projected. Instead, there was simply a seamless flow of events. It was a continuation of good.

Since that experience, I have endeavored to be more alert to separate the world’s view on any subject from what Christian Science teaches, which brings true dominion and healing demonstration. Mary Baker Eddy, the discoverer of Christian Science, writes in Science and Health, “Happiness is spiritual, born of Truth and Love” (p. 57). Because of this, happiness is not a remote possibility, but a permanent characteristic of God’s creation, originating in God. Knowing this not only enables us to express joy based on spiritual law, but it also determines our well-being, our health. In Proverbs we find this wise counsel: “Happiness is good medicine, but sorrow is a disease” (17:22, Easy-to-Read version). And in Science and Health, we find: “This is the doctrine of Christian Science: that divine Love cannot be deprived of its manifestation, or object; that joy cannot be turned into sorrow, for sorrow is not the master of joy; that good can never produce evil; that matter can never produce mind nor life result in death. The perfect man—governed by God, his perfect Principle—is sinless and eternal”
(p. 304).

Regardless of what you might be tempted to believe about your life, if you start with the spiritual fact that as God’s child you are exceedingly happy, the view before you will brighten. Things that seemed obstacles will become like ascending treads on a ladder, enhancing your view. God’s determination for His cherished children to be blessed, happy, is above distortion and interference. His promises are kept.

Rebecca Odegaard is a Christian Science practitioner and teacher who lives in western Massachusetts and teaches in New York City.

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