Israel Rafalovich
Israel Rafalovich

In pursuit of happiness

Have you ever reached a crossroad in your life and wondered what would make you happy?

All too often, what we thought would make us happy hasn’t, so we have found ourselves on a never-ending quest to grab that carrot that bobs along just beyond our reach.

Do we really know? Does that promised happiness really pan out in the end?

You are married seven, 10, 20 years and in a moment you look around, see your wife and children, your house and all that you have achieved and you find that you are still lonely.

Your best friends are throwing a party for you. Everyone is happy with you. Everyone compliments you. But, in a blink of a moment you lean against the wall, look around and you find out that despite all your good friends and their best wishes you are still lonely.

Loneliness is the main ingredient that pushes us in our pursuit of happiness.

Loneliness, the absence of a meaningful human connection, drains the joy and the purpose from our lives.

We are desperate for the sound of another human voice in our lives. The sad truth is that even married people can be lonely and unconnected.

In fact, we are not so great at anticipating what will make us happy, especially when it comes to choices such as buying a big house, working long hours for a bigger paycheck or buying a new car or a piece of jewellery.

None of this should come as much of a surprise to a reader of the New Testament, since Jesus and his followers had a lot to say on this subject. They marked a pretty clear path that leads to happiness where the promise of perfect human relationship, material possessions, and utopia circumstances fall.

If material possessions and human bliss become a person’s endeavors, one is likely to discover that fear and greed through that crack in the window.

Seeking true happiness does not require that we sacrifice all worldly good — just that we get our priorities straight.

True religion offers to redeem us from loneliness, not by answering our prayers and sending us the man or women of our dreams, but by teaching us to see our neighbours as ourselves, to be aware of their humanity, their fears and feelings, instead of only being aware of our own.

True religion teaches us not how to win friends but how to be a friend, to be concerned with alleviating the loneliness of others, learning to hear their cry instead of wondering why no one hears ours.

In one of the great paradoxes at the heart of all religion and life is when we worry about ourselves, when we consult all those ”how to” books on how to make ourselves happier, we guarantee that our deepest needs will continue to go unmet.

When we learn to see the people around us as needing love, as being entitled to love and happiness, every bit as much as we are, we discover that we cure our loneliness in the act of reaching out to them.

What does religion offer that we lonely human souls need? It offers community. Our place of worship offers us a refuge, an island of caring in the midst of a hostile, competitive world.

In our society, that segregates the old from the struggling, the house of worship represents one place in our society where my gain does not mean your loss. The man or woman who worship next to you in church may be an insurance salesman or the manager of a rival business, but for the hour you spend together he is not trying to sell you anything or get ahead of you.

The world may have hands, but our souls belong to someone else. It is under the auspices of religion and almost nowhere else in our lives, that we can meet people as brothers and sisters, not as buyers or sellers.

Is happiness ultimately a genetic predisposition? Is it really just a matter of seeing the glass half full instead of half empty?

The answers lie in the knowledge of God and each individual’s relationship to him.

Happiness is spiritual, born of truth and love. It is unselfish, therefore it cannot exist alone, but requires all mankind to share it.

This kind of happiness is not superficial. It wells up from deep within our innermost selves, bringing lovely serenity.