Where to Find Happiness
In 2018, Steve Kroft interviewed both Tom Brady and Nick Foles for 60 Minutes. Brady had already won 5 Super Bowl rings. In the midst of his achievements, fame, and success, Tom stated he still felt “puzzled and empty.” After all, he had the wife, the house, the fame, and the money. Perhaps his emotions were tainted by the fact he had just lost the most recent Super Bowl to Nick Foles and the Philadelphia Eagles.
When asked about all his successes in life, he leaned back from the camera and stated, “A lot of times I get frustrated and introverted, and there’s times I’m not the person I want to be. Why do I have 5 Super Bowl rings and still think there’s something greater out there for me? I mean, maybe a lot of people would say, ‘Hey man, this is what is!’ I reached my goal, my dream, my life. Me, I think: God, it’s gotta be more than this. I mean this can’t be what it’s all cracked up to be.”
Kroft then went on to ask Brady, “What’s the answer?” Brady replied, “I wish I knew…I wish I knew.” Even if you’re not a Tom Brady fan, or even a football fan, there is such sadness in this exchange. We all seek happiness. We all struggle to find it at times, and it can seem so fleeting.
When Nick Foles was interviewed, he was most likely feeling quite good about having won the Super Bowl and being named MVP. But his journey there had been quite different than Tom Brady’s. In 2016, amidst many personal struggles, Foles considered giving up football and becoming a pastor. He prayed about it while spending quality time with his family, finally deciding to take the job of back-up quarterback for the Kansas City Chiefs.
When asked, Foles humbly told his story. “That [being a backup quarterback for the Chiefs] was the greatest thing in the world for me because it changed my perspective. It changed my heart, and I realize how grateful I am to be here.” A grateful heart…a heart that really believed he was in the hands of God, and that no matter what happened, he would be blessed as long as he lived his life to glorify God. There was a peace and a joy about his decision to continue playing in 2016 as he stated, “It took a lot more faith to come back and play than it would’ve to go the other direction. Either way would have been fine. Either way I would have trusted God.”
A mere two years later, Foles would sit in the locker room BEFORE the Super Bowl and tell reporters he was good with however the game went. He stated, “I’m grateful to be up here. I’m grateful to have this opportunity to speak and play in this game. But at the same time, if I would have made the other decision, my life wouldn’t have been a loss. I would have gone and done something else and glorified God in that instance.” Foles had found a peace and happiness that surpassed money, fame, or worldly success.
In that same year of 2018, Yale University offered a “Happiness” class to all undergraduate students. Nearly 25% of the student body signed up to take the course. In fact, it was so popular that the class was not offered again because of the difficulty in filling other academic courses. Even to these “best and brightest” students, happiness was an elusive idea they wanted to learn more about.
So how do we pursue the chase to happiness? Or, do we just wait for happiness to find us? What is the secret to finding this same happiness and peace that surpasses even the setbacks, successes, and cares of this world?
Luckily, we have some good advice from the Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount. It begins with some verses called the Beatitudes. Beatitude is a word that means “blessed in such a way to create a current state of happiness.” There are 8 Beatitudes that, when followed, promise to bring a happiness that is not based on happenings in this world.
The interesting thing about the Beatitudes is that they are in a particular order. It is very difficult to do the second one, if you can’t conquer the first. And it is difficult to achieve the next without following the one prior to it. That is often the most misunderstood part of the Beatitudes.
The Beatitudes describe the character traits we should develop in ourselves as believers. If we can develop these, we are told that we will realize “happiness.” At first these 8 verses seem to be counterintuitive to happiness. But such is the way of God many times.
Number 1: Happy are the poor in spirit, for they will receive the Kingdom of Heaven. This is the one we must conquer first. On the surface it appears to tell us to be sad so that we can receive a future time in heaven perhaps. But the real meaning lies in our attitude. Just as a beggar is poor and cries out for help, we recognize that we cannot do this life on our own. We cry out to God for His blessing and help. It focuses not on what I have done that makes me worthy. But rather it focuses on what I don’t have. I have nothing without Him. If we cannot realize this sense of depravity, we may as well skip the other seven Beatitudes. But if you let yourself, you will find there is great freedom, joy and happiness in letting go and letting God have control.
Number 2: Happy are those who mourn for they will receive comfort. When you think about it, this is a proper response to being “poor in spirit.” We recognize how many mistakes we have made when we try to do it on our own and it SHOULD grieve us. We begin to recognize the inherent depravity of our own hearts. (It actually amazes me to see how many people actually think they are inherently good. i.e., I never had to teach my child to lie!) Once we realize this, God promises to comfort us, which leads to happiness not based on what is happening in the world, what we have accomplished, or our talents.
Number 3: Happy are the meek, for they will inherit the earth. The word “meek” has a negative connotation in our society. The Greek word “praus” used in this verse does not have an accurate one-word English translation. The meaning does not convey passiveness or easily pushed around. Rather, it has the concept of a powerful personality that is able to control itself with a spirit of humility, realizing our own weaknesses. We cannot possibly be “praus” until we have a realistic view of our own failures. "Praus" means we can sometimes let others be first. We don't have to constantly prove how great we are. If we can control our egos and pride and be willing to submit to God’s guidance, He promises that we will “inherit the earth.” There is great joy and happiness in being assured that God will not allow his children in their meekness end up on the short end of the deal.
Number 4: Happy are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be satisfied. We are promised happiness if we have an intense passion for doing the right thing. It is wonderful to know your sin is forgiven, but if we can truly desire in our hearts to be more holy, more Godly, more obedient, we will be satisfied and realize true joy.
Number 5: Happy are those who show mercy, for they shall obtain mercy. Mercy is to NOT give someone the punishment they are due. Mercy is not easy to give, especially when you have been hurt. The merciful person forgives, has compassion, and deeply cares for others. The merciful person doesn’t try to get “payback.” The merciful person sets reasonable expectations of others. We are promised that if we show mercy to others, God will show mercy to us, which will bear much happiness.
Number 6: Happy are the pure in heart, for they shall see God. To be pure in heart is to be honest and clear, rather than scheming. The pure in heart have no ulterior motives. They don’t gossip or seek to belittle others. When we seek this character trait, we are promised a greater intimacy with God.
Number 7: Happy are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God. When we strive to resolve conflict rather than create it, we will be blessed just as a father blesses his child. Make no mistake about it…being a peacemaker can be difficult and uncomfortable. There are times when wrongs must be confronted, but the peacemakers always strive to do it lovingly, seeking resolution.
Number 8: Happy are those who are persecuted for righteousness sake, for they will inherit the Kingdom of Heaven. Happiness is promised to those who seek to possess the previous seven character traits and who stand for their faith. Even when people shun you, revile you, or forfeit your friendship because of your faith, we can be assured that we will have God’s protection, and we will have the greatest joy of inheriting Heaven.
It has been five years since that 2018 interview, and I would venture to say that Tom Brady is no more happy today even having won two additional Super Bowls. For years he stated he wanted to play until he was 45…and he has. Did it bring the joy and the satisfaction he thought it would? Or do isolation and introversion still haunt him?
Life is not meant to be lived in isolation, seeking introversion. Life is meant to be lived in relationship with God and with others as we develop the character traits leading to a happy and joyous life that is not dependent on what is going on around us. Life is meant to be lived with a confidence that when we give the reins of our lives to Him, we rest in the hands of a Father who loves us deeply and has our back! That is the way to peace and true happiness!
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Anne Hope is the award winning author of Bent Pages...a sharp, funny, and deeply inspirational narrative.
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