By the late great evangelist Billy Graham.
One of the most frequent questions I get asked is, “How can I find happiness?”
The fact is that Christ did promise personal happiness in his teaching. In his Sermon on the Mount he uses the word ‘blessed’ – literally ‘happy’ – eight times. Christ taught that happiness is not a state that depends on happenings or circumstances. In fact, it is not a state of mind at all, but rather an attitude of the heart.
Jesus, for example, during his life on earth had every reason to be unhappy.
He came to his own people, but his own people did not receive him. The foxes had their holes and the birds of the air had their nests but he had nowhere to lay his head. He was falsely accused, endured the ordeal of a mock trial, and was unjustly nailed to a cross until he was dead.
But the rough treatment handed out to him did not once ruffle the dignity of his soul or disturb his spiritual equilibrium. In fact, the Bible puts it this way: “Who for the joy that was set before him, [Jesus] endured the cross, despising the shame.”
We know that happiness in this life is a possibility regardless of circumstances because Jesus demonstrated it. Over and over again he encouraged the faint hearted to ‘be of good cheer’. Those words – so often spoken – become a sort of ‘theme song’ of his career. They brought forgiveness to the sinner, power to the weak and hope to the lonely and fearful.
God didn’t put you into this world to float aimlessly through the sea of time only to fall purposelessly into the abyss of eternity. Your soul was made for soaring not for sighing!
That word ‘blessed’ was spoken not just to that remote multitude in the hill country of Galilee two thousand years ago – it was intended for people of all ages and cultures. Yes, for you right now!
True happiness does not mean we always go skipping through life singing. It is not always possible to pack up your troubles in your old kit bag and smile, smile, smile.
Life at its best is a rather sober business. Nothing develops into a thing of beauty without coping with pain, blight and hardship. Roses grow out of a bush of thorns; lilies climb their way up through the mud and slime of their native environment. Out of chaos emerges loveliness and exquisite beauty.
Even though you may be lying on a hospital bed at this moment or going through some other intense mental or physical suffering, you can be happy. Happiness does not depend on circumstances.
If you make serenity and happiness depend on outward circumstances then you are destined for disappointment and disillusionment.
In fact, many times a person does not find true peace and happiness until in the midst of suffering and pain. I have a friend in Charlotte, North Carolina, who was paralysed a few years ago from the neck down. She testified that she never knew genuine peace and happiness and joy until through her experience she met God.
The birds of the air, the flowers of the field and the animals of the forest are immune from the worries, frets and frustrations common to man, because they invariably fulfil their purpose and destiny.
Mankind cannot do this without help because, unfortunately, he is victim of an impediment called sin.
If man had never sinned, all would have been well with him. He too would have fulfilled his high purpose unmolested, but at the very outset of his history, man stumbled and fell.
And like a herd of sheep, when the leader plunges over a precipice, the rest of the generations have quite naturally followed into the same, fateful abyss. But the good news is that, despite this awful tragedy, a way has been provided for man to rise out of his environment. Two thousand years ago an emissary named Jesus came from heaven as a good will ambassador.
In a few short years on this planet, he did some very wonderful things, the last of which was to lay down his life, thus performing the last act of atoning sacrifice which reconciled man to God.
From that day to this all men who reach to him have found the real happiness which God intended man to have all the time.
True happiness comes from trusting in the Lord!
● From a radio sermon given by Billy Graham in 1955