Making Moments Matter

We All Seek Happiness

Happiness is something we all seek. Psychologists study it and scientists look for products or life changes that can improve it. Long before today’s scientific method and late-night “info-mercials” selling happiness came around, one of the wisest men alive spent his life searching for the same answer.

The book of Ecclesiastes was written by “the Preacher” tradition, and tradition says that it was King Solomon who wrote it. The fact that he says he was the son of David, king in Jerusalem (Ecclesiastes 1:1) and that he had collected “have acquired great wisdom, surpassing all who were over Jerusalem before me” (1:16) lends credence to this tradition, and most scholars agree with it.

According to the book, the Preacher decides to learn about wisdom and madness and folly (1:17) and spends his life chasing after things that are supposed to give us happiness and purpose. His overall result in all things, however, is that they are all pointless and don’t give us any security in life. (9:12) The only things that really make life worth living, according to him, are to enjoy the life you’ve been given.

So go ahead. Eat your food with joy, and drink your wine with a happy heart, for God approves of this! Wear fine clothes, with a splash of cologne!

Live happily with the woman you love through all the meaningless days of life that God has given you under the sun. The wife God gives you is your reward for all your earthly toil. 10 Whatever you do, do well. For when you go to the grave,* there will be no work or planning or knowledge or wisdom. – Ecclesiastes 9:7-10

He also talks about knowing God and living in fear and respect of who He is. That, combined with finding joy in everything you do, is “the whole of the matter”.

13 That’s the whole story. Here now is my final conclusion: Fear God and obey his commands, for this is everyone’s duty. 14 God will judge us for everything we do, including every secret thing, whether good or bad. – Ecclesiastes 12:13-14

Choosing Happiness

Today, psychology is beginning to come to the same conclusion as the Preacher. Happiness itself is fleeting and not able to be maintained by any outside influence or material goods. Lottery winners are not happier than the average population and accident victims are not unhappier.[1]

Hedonic adaptation is the process of us returning to a medium level of happiness. It’s what happens after the high of a vacation comes down. After the raise/promotion levels out and we’re back to the grind at work. It’s our mind’s ability to return to a “normal” feeling.[2]

According to an article by Sonja Lyubomirsky in an article for Psychology Today, we can affect the process of adaptation by how we look at what has happened to us. When a positive experience happens, just enjoy it! Thinking about it or analyzing it brings it down quicker than just accepting the good feelings and experiences. When a negative experience happens, think about. Write about it, more specifically. By analyzing and journaling and expressing what we’re dealing with and going through, we can more quickly move through the bad feelings and get back to our normal happiness level. [3]

One group of psychologists says that the process of becoming happier takes 5 pathways: positive emotions, engagement, meaning, positive relationships, drawing on character strengths. [4] Paralleling what the Preacher learned, we can pull from this daily habits to help increase our happiness.

Positive Emotion (savoring the moment): Eat and enjoy life

Positive emotion isn’t about trying to always feel good. It’s about choosing gratitude in each moment and finding ways to focus on the positive. It’s about choosing to praise God in all circumstances. Enjoying life is easy when everything’s going well and the sun’s been shining every day. When the clouds come, we can still choose to find the good and celebrate what brings joy.

Gratitude journals can be a wonderful aide in helping us keep our focus on what’s truly important. One study even showed that gratitude increases your wellbeing by 10%.[5] The effects of gratitude go through your whole life and help you find balance and joy in every day and every situation.

Ecclesiastes talks about this concept in as “Eat your food with joy, and drink your wine with a happy heart” (9:7). It doesn’t mean put your head in the sand and pretend that nothings happening; it’s just another way of saying enjoy the moment and celebrate what you have.

Engagement : Do Your Work Well

Engagement is the act of being connected with whatever you’re doing at the moment. When you are not engaged, you may be going through the motions of something, but you’re not giving your best or contributing to your fullest potential. Happiness is negatively affected by feeling disconnected from your everyday routine.

If you’re in a situation that you’re struggling with, it can be easy to try to change the circumstances. Sometimes, that’s the only solution. More times, however, you are better of learning to find engagement in a situation you don’t like in order to practice a beneficial mentality. While a change in circumstance might be a quick fix, almost all circumstances get old and boring and challenging. A well-developed habit of engagement no matter what brings longer lasting contentment than the short term fix of running away.

Wherever you are, be all there! Live to the hilt every situation you believe to be the will of God. – Jim Elliot

Ecclesiastes’ version of this idea is “Whatever you do, do well. For when you go to the grave,* there will be no work or planning or knowledge or wisdom.”(9:10) There’s no do-overs in life. This is our one time of doing things and we should take advantage of that by doing it to our fullest.

Meaning : Know that You’re Working for God

We all need to know our purpose and to know that we’re engaged in working in that purpose. It doesn’t have to be a great and noble purpose that brings great worldly accolades or attention. It can be a simple purpose that only you know. But knowing what that is and being able to smile about even the most mundane tasks and feel connected with God in serving that purpose can bring a huge bump to your overall happiness.

Ecclesiastes reminds us that we are here to work for God and to know God, “That’s the whole story. Here now is my final conclusion: Fear God and obey his commands, for this is everyone’s duty.” (12:13) Fearing God, knowing who He is and who we should be in Him (the root of obedience) is vital to finding meaning, happiness and purpose.

Positive Relationships : Enjoy the Wife God Gave You

Walk with the wise and become wise, for a companion of fools suffers harm. – Proverbs 13:20 (NIV)

Husbands and wives are one relationship that is vital to happiness, but all relationship are important to our overall well-being. Who surround ourselves with can make or break our day and can bring us up, make us better people, or drag us down and make us feel worse. Sometimes, we can even surround ourselves with people who enable our problems because it’s easier than facing what we need to face. Good friends, friends worth having are the ones that support us and love us, but also challenge us to not stop in the middle of the race. They bring us up and help us become the fullest version of us that God has planned for us.

You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with. ― Jim Rohn

Ecclesiastes says “Live happily with the woman you love through all the meaningless days of life that God has given you under the sun. The wife God gives you is your reward for all your earthly toil.” As true as this is for marital relationships, it’s even true for friendships as well. Having friends and people we can turn to in the good times and the bad is an absolute joy.

Drawing on Character Strengths : Fear of God and His Judgement

We live in a world that lacks moral absolutes. We are told that it’s OK to believe what you’ve been taught, but not to expect others to believe it. It’s no longer about finding the truth that exists outside ourselves (as those of us who believe in a God with standards think), but instead it’s about finding the truth inside yourself and no one can tell you you’re wrong in what you find.

This is not helpful when learning to live a moral life. Christian morality has a dependence on knowing who God is and changing our behavior to reflect His likeness. We don’t think that we can define good; our theology says that we are all fallen and sinful and only God is good.

To operate and find happiness when we are denying ourselves what the world says is fun and entertainment, we must fully be convinced of the importance of our moral compass and draw from that when we make decisions. If we are feeling like we are just doing a duty or following an archaic list of rules, we won’t have the conviction to follow through when it matters. And it does matter.

Ecclesiastes, in all its admonitions to enjoy life, always reminds the reader that God is the judge and we are to fear Him (in reverence adore Him) and honor the commandments and teachings knowing we will stand before Him on judgement day. “God will judge us for everything we do, including every secret thing, whether good or bad.” (12:14)

As the Preacher says in his conclusion on the matter, it’s about knowing God and remember who He is. In this life of instability and change and ambiguity, we know we can rely on Him and that He is there for eternity. Getting to know Him and getting to enjoy being in His presence both now and in eternity is the whole reason and purpose for us.

And this is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent. – John 17:3 (NKJV)

[1] Adams, Susan. “Why Winning Powerball Won’t Make You Happy”. Forbes. Com: Retrieved May 3, 2015.

[2] Amin, Amit. “The Hedonic Treadmill”. Retrieved May 3, 2015.

[3] Lyubomirsky, Sonja. “Hedonic Adaptation to Positive and Negative Experiences”. Retrieved May 3, 2015.

[4] Zone Positive. “Five Pathways to Happiness”.

[5] Amin, Amit. “The 31 Benefits of Gratitude You Didn’t Even Know About”. Retrieved May 3, 2015.

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