The Spoils of Happiness or Upside Down Kingdom?

The Spoils of Happiness – NYTimes.com.

This article seems to be written to encourage us to engage in actual relationships over virtual ones or isolation. In that sense it’s in line with the biblical call to live in genuine community. But it goes further to claim that how others respond to us determines our happiness, that in very real ways limits us. In the absence of a higher reality like God, or The Kingdom of God, or heaven hope is nowhere to be found unless circumstances treat us well. I don’t think this philosopher has really heard what Jesus said in the sermon on the mount. Jesus used the term blessed to describe those who seem to have it rough, but actually hold the secret to life. That secret is to depend fully on God’s grace. This precisely means not allowing circumstances or the favor of people to determine our happiness.
In fact, being blessed is a category beyond happiness. It is the sense of well-being that follows a sacrificial life. Jesus implies that this is the only truly satisfying life. That life lived in pursuit of pleasure and success will leave us empty.
But the author is right in this sense: the actions of another are required. Jesus uses the divine passive (they will inherit, they will be filled, they will be comforted, theirs is the kingdom of heaven…) to demonstrate that a righteous and loving God will provide all these things and more. Maybe being chairperson of the humanities dept at Texas and having a little soccer player bring moments of bliss. But a humble life of serving and loving has the potential to push deeper buttons in the human soul. Yes, we’re wired to be loved-and yes God has an infinite supply for us, but we’re also wired to serve and sacrifice. The truth is we can invest in others and find a joy more complete that comes from doing the highest good we were designed to do. But it helps if we’ve embraced God’s vision of reality. If we begin flirting with the world’s idea of success we can rather quickly become unhappy even in sacrifice.
So what do you think? Is happiness through relationships and circumstance the best life has to offer? Or is the blessed life of sacrifice truly the best life available? What has brought the deepest sense of well-being to your life? If others don’t bless you, do you have hope that God will (and does)? If you don’t believe in God, what is the source of peace and happiness for you? If you do believe, how are you doing at embracing Jesus’ vision for life? How’s your life going in the upside down Kingdom? I hope you’re feeling blessed in God today!

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Posted on October 7, 2010, in Spiritual Formation. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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