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Happiness depends, as Nature shows, less on exterior things than most suppose. – William Cowper (1731-1800) English poet and hymnodist

I never cease to marvel at human diversity when it comes to happiness and suffering. Despite all contrary indications, some of the happiest people I have ever met had little “reason” to be happy. Ironically, some of the most miserable folks I have ever met had the most going for them. It is also true that two children raised in the same family and circumstances may turn out very differently. One may “succeed” and the other “fail”. One may drift aimlessly while the other drives toward their goals.

The “x” factor seems to be whether or not a sense of self develops that is solid enough to resist the tides of misfortune that strike every life. More often than not in my experience, the “x” factor is related to spiritual health. If we live our life seeking the Divine, we are more likely to be satisfied with our lives and so we are happy.

My crackpot theory (thanks again Phil Porter for that term!) is that embarking on the spiritual quest conditions us to be less anxious about mystery. As our faith matures, we begin to love the questions and stop worrying so much about the answers. We let God be God and we find peace.

When that inner struggle is addressed then it doesn’t really matter whether we are too fat, too thin, beautiful or homely, have a spouse, a great job, money or whatever. Our life is no longer defined by what we have, but by how comfortable we are within our own skins. Our quest to acquire the external trappings of life is supplanted by our yearning for the mysterious, yet comforting presence of God.

Do you want to be happy? What spiritual practices help you let go of worry and become content? When trouble starts, where do you turn? Do you call upon God to give you wisdom and peace or do you just stick to your own ways? If God seems silent, what do you do while you wait?

May we each find the inner love of God that brings happiness this year.

Happy New Year!

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