Happy New Year! Or is it?
If the news headlines are to be believed 2022 may not be the happiest of years for many of us, with the uncertainties continuing around the Covid pandemic, climate change, and deteriorating international relationships being just a few of the things that might adversely affect our happiness.
Our happiness is dependant on so many external things – our health, our financial situation, the state of our relationships, how well our career is progressing, and especially our society’s obsession with seeking happiness through consumption and pleasure which can often lead to the very opposite – addiction and misery.
Joy, on the other-hand, is an entirely different thing to happiness. We can be joyful when all of the things we think we need to be happy have been taken away from us or are apparently going wrong.
How can this be so? Because joy is not about how much we have, but about how much we enjoy what we have – however little that may be – whether that is possessions, money, health or whatever.
Joy is about being able to give thanks and praise in any situation – to see the good where others can only see the bad – or to put that another way – to see God where others can only see bad.
Henri Nouwen writes, ‘Joy does not simply happen to us. We have to choose joy and keep choosing it every day. It is a choice based on the knowledge that we belong to God and have found in God our refuge and our safety and that nothing, not even death, can take God away from us. Joy is the experience of knowing that you are unconditionally loved and that nothing – sickness, failure, emotional distress, oppression, war, or even death – can take that love away.’ Or as St Paul writes in his letter to the Romans, ‘I am persuaded that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.’
The Abbot of Worth Abbey, Christopher Jamison, writes in his book Finding Happiness (a book even recommended by Richard and Judy!) that true happiness is found by knowing the good and doing the good. The ‘good’ relates to our attitudes and actions with regards to gluttony, greed, lust, anger sadness, vanity and pride – all issues that each of us struggle with, and all issues that our consumer culture use to sell us stuff that will not make us truly happy.
To be truly happy in 2022 we need to deal with these internal issues and not just the external ones—and we can do that whatever frightening news headlines we might come across in 2022.
I wish you all a very joyful 2022!
Yours in Christ,