We live in a broken world. No matter who you are and how you feel, you’ve experienced times of pain and sadness. If you were asked if you would like to be happier, chances are you would say yes. But even in the midst of this brokenness, our happiness matters to God.
The Bible says, “Take delight in the LORD, and he will give you the desires of your heart” (Psalm 37:4). Our happiness is so important to God that when we achieve it in Him, we draw closer to His heart and His Kingdom. If we understand that our happiness matters to God, the next question becomes how do we pursue happiness in our personal lives? In a recent interview published in part in the Argentine weekly “Viva,” Pope Francis takes on this very question by listing his top 10 tips for bringing greater joy to one’s life.
Live and let live.
Everyone should be guided by this principle, he said, which has a similar expression in Rome with the saying, “Move forward and let others do the same.”
Be giving of yourself to others.
People need to be open and generous toward others he said, because “if you withdraw into yourself, you run the risk of becoming egocentric. And stagnant water becomes putrid.
During the interview, the pope, who used to teach high school literature, used an image from an Argentine novel by Ricordo Guiraldes, in which the protagonist – gaucho Don Segundo Sombra looks back on how he lived his life. “He says that in his youth he was a stream full of rocks that he carried with him; as an adult, a rushing river, and in old age, he was still moving, but slowly, like a pool of water,” the pope said. The reason he like this latter image of a pool of water as it has “the ability to move with kindness and humility, a calmness in life.”
Have a healthy sense of leisure.
The pleasures of art, literature and playing together with children have been lost, he said.
“Consumerism has brought us anxiety and stress, causing people to lose a healthy culture of leisure. Their time is swallowed up so people can’t share it with anyone,” he said.
While many parents work long hours, he said it’s important that they set aside time to play with their children.
“Work schedules make it complicated but you must do it,” he said.
Sunday should be for family.
Sundays should be holidays. Workers should have Sundays off because “Sunday is for family,” he said.
Find innovative ways to create dignified jobs for young people.
“We need to be creative with young people. If they have no other opportunities they will get into drugs,” he said. Then, these young people will be more vulnerable to suicide.
Respect and take care of nature.
Environmental degradation is one of the biggest challenges we have, he said.
“I think a question that we’re not asking ourselves is: ‘Isn’t humanity committing suicide with this indiscriminate and tyrannical use of nature?’,” he said.
Stop being negative.
“Needing to talk badly about others indicates low self-esteem. That means, ‘I feel so low that instead of picking myself up I have to cut others down,’” the pope said. “Letting go of negative things quickly is healthy.
Don’t proselytize; respect others' beliefs.
“We can inspire others through witness so that one grows together in communicating. But the worst thing of all is religious proselytism, which paralyzes: ‘I am talking with you in order to persuade you,’ No. Each person dialogues, starting with his and her own identity. The church grows by attraction, not proselytizing,” the pope said.
Work for peace.
We are living in a time of many wars, he said.
“The call for peace must be shouted. Peace sometime gives the impression of being quiet, but it is never quiet, peace is always proactive and dynamic,” he said.
Pope Francis' words come as a reality check to so many of us, especially with all that we’re facing right now in the world. We often do good things in part because it’s good for us. Some of the things we do are not pleasurable or rewarding initially, but paying attention to our pleasure in doing good has great significance. When we do, it makes us more like Jesus. While we shouldn’t look at doing good works as a way to earn salvation or favor with God, when we are aware of our own pleasure and God’s pleasure, we can then better disciple to others. Jesus said, “By this, all men will know you are disciples: if you love one another” (John 13:35). Love is at the heart of discipleship. We cannot love others without the desire to love. This is the Will of God.
If we are experiencing unhappiness, the first place to turn to is God and Scripture. If you flip through the Bible right now, you will run across lines like, “Don’t be afraid,” “Lo, I am with you always,” “My peace I give you,” and “Nothing can separate you from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus”. These words and promises can form a line of defense in your mind, pushing back at enemy forces. Recall God’s promises and remember the happiness you once held. If you trust in God, then you know that joy is recoverable based upon evidence in God’s Word.
The Bible says, “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in Him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit” (Romans 15:13). In your moments of panic, unhappiness and pain, you can find peace. This peace may not be immediate. You may not be able to fully grab hold of happiness. It may feel slippery. But as you begin to fully trust in His promises based on the trustworthiness of our Heavenly Father, you can find joy again because God does not lie.
Your anxious mind can be calmed when you trust in God and rest inside the arms of Christ. Our happiness is eased when we are more Christ-minded. The great rescue of a great Savior can bring happiness to your heart and mind that is bigger than anything you could ever imagine. Take delight in God, for He is good.