Let me start with a disclaimer. If reading this blog title gives the impression I am a chef of any kind, then please be immediately corrected! I am a fairly ordinary home cook and definitely not a chef! However, I am certainly someone who appreciates food! And I do love it when a good recipe comes together.
The thing about cooking, I find, is that if you follow the recipe carefully, you can usually make a decent dish. However, if you decide to do something different, like use a different ingredient or put more or less of something in, then it may not turn out quite so well! My daughter tried to make her signature brownies recently, but changed the choc chunks for marshmallows and the top burned. Sometimes you get lucky, but sometimes you really don’t. Maybe it is best to follow the recipe.
I wonder if it is the same for leading a good and happy life. Is there a recipe we can follow? Are there ingredients we really MUST include in our lives?
Trying to figure out how to be happy is something human beings have been thinking about for thousands of years. They were doing it in Ancient Greece and we are still doing it today. If you google “how to be happy”, for example, a long list of articles pops up! I saw one that said “10 Scientifically Proven Ways to be Happy”, another listed 8 ways, another 23 ways and another 25 ways. And there were many more, too, along with book recommendations.
So, what are the most important ingredients to living a happy life?
There has been quite a lot of research done on this. Scientists and psychologists have investigated, observed, compiled data and come back with lots of evidence-based ways that humans can improve their happiness and wellbeing. There’s a whole discipline called “Positive Psychology” which focuses on this area.
I read a great book on positive psychology recently, and when I read some of these suggested ways to improve wellbeing, I actually recognized lots of them from the Bible and the actions of Jesus.
For example, the practice of being thankful. One of my favourite verses in the Bible says, “In everything give thanks.” Practising gratitude is not a new thing! Here we have some ancient wisdom from a couple of thousand years ago.
Another positive psychology recommendation is that helping others can lead to a happier life. The Bible talks about this a lot. For example, one letter Paul wrote in the Bible tells people to do as many good deeds as they can, to help everyone and share what they have.
According to the research, there are quite a few ingredients that make up a good and happy life – we are going to look at some of them in this series of blogs and check out whether the Bible might have something to say about them.
But before we think about HOW we can have a good and happy life, I want us to think about WHY humans should try to have a good and happy life?
Why should we? Just because it feels good when we are happy? Are there other reasons?
Now, while positive psychology can help us a lot, I’m not convinced it can give us ALL the answers to that question.
But I am convinced that God and the Bible can help us with it.
In the Bible verse we heard earlier, Jesus said, “I came so that people could have life, life to the full!” Or, in other words, Jesus came so that people could have the life God designed them to have. There’s another verse in the book of John in the Bible that says that God blesses us with everything we need to enjoy life.
Based on what I understand the Bible to be saying, I believe the reason WHY we should try to have a good and happy life is because God wants us to have one! I believe God made us with great love –made us to love and to be loved. We were made to have good, happy lives where we can be our best selves. Lives where we have meaning and purpose, where we connect with God and with others, lives where we take care of our bodies and our minds and lives where all we do is motivated by love. Yes, sometimes we will have hard things to deal with in our lives, but how we respond to them and manage them will make all the difference to our wellbeing and happiness.
So as we think together about the ingredients of a good and happy life, let’s open our hearts and minds to the wisdom that God and the Bible offer, and see what we might be able to learn.
Rev Liz Flanigan