As the Lead Chaplain in an assisted living facility here in Florida, one of the greatest issues I have had the privilege of dealing with since the pandemic has taken hold is the depression and anxiety that comes from extended times of isolation and quarantine.
I have made it a regular policy to visit and encourage the residents and the staff of the facility in which I work. There seems to be no end to the depressive side of life, and one of the challenges I have given our people is to greatly reduce the time spent watching or listening to the news.
Interestingly, those who have taken my advice have found that their spirits almost immediately have lifted. Their HQ (Happiness Quotient) has elevated, and the depression they have so easily fallen into has now fallen by the wayside of their day-to-day activity.
While I understand the need for news, and keeping current on the events and affairs of the world and society in which we live, the constant involvement we tend to have with such things only succeeds in depressing us.
Some years ago, I read the report of a man who was considering legal action against a newspaper for reporting an accident that occurred in his community. It seems that the man was reading the newspaper one morning while he was shaving, and he became so upset in reading the report of the accident that he cut himself.
He was considering suing the newspaper for damages for not only disrupting his happiness that day, but also causing him bodily harm! Fortunately, the better part of wisdom took over and he did not follow his inklings.
This whole question of depression, anxiety, and the pursuit of happiness came to the front in my thinking recently when a couple that my bride and I have become very close with through the time we have been in Florida told us they were getting a divorce.
It seems the fellow decided he did not want to be married anymore, so one morning out of the blue he served his wife with divorce papers. He felt like the divorce settlement he would get from her (substantial) financial resources would set him for the rest of his life.
I am the first to admit that thre are two sides to every issue, but it seems that he is currently seeking his own happiness at her expense.
But what course should we be taking in seeking happiness?
In the late 1990s, Martin Seligman, the president of the American Psychological Association, noted psychology’s emphasis on the negative side of life. Studies were focused on depression and anxiety, while ignoring the positive, including happiness and well-being. His observation spurred new research and hundreds of articles on happiness.
One of the central topics addressed in these studies is this simple question: Can people become happier? The resounding answer is yes. Randy Alcorn notes how closely these new studies recognize that wealth, success, and popularity are not indicators of happiness. Instead their recommendations align with Biblical principles for attaining true happiness.
For example, the results of a Duke University study concluded happiness is fostered by several key factors:
• Avoiding suspicion and resentment. Nursing a grudge was a major factor in unhappiness. (cf. Mark 11:25)
• Not living in the past. An unwholesome preoccupation with old mistakes and failures leads to depression. (cf. Phil. 3:13-14)
• Not wasting time and energy fighting conditions that can’t be changed. (cf. Matt 6:25-27)
• Refusing to indulge in self-pity when handed a raw deal. Realize that nobody gets through life without some sorrow and misfortune. (cf. Phil. 4:11-12)
• Finding something bigger to believe in. Self-centered, egotistical people score lowest in any test for measuring happiness. (cf. Matt. 6:33)
When you put all of this together, it seems apparent that the Christian approach is a powerfully helpful one, even in this current crisis in which we are living.
We can attempt to find happiness or resolution from conflict in our own devices, but those pursuits will come up empty. Psychologists may even borrow certain values from a Christian worldview, but without faith in Christ and the indwelling Spirit as an agent of change, they’re left without a solid foundation for happiness.
Achieving true happiness calls for the greatest solution ever devised—one so radical it appears foolish to the sophisticated—and that is the cross of Christ. “The word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God” (1 Cor. 1:18).
Simply put, turning our problems, our concerns, our needs, and yes, even our wants, over to the Lord will give us a greater sense of happiness and enjoyment than stewing over them!
God bless …
Chuck Tabor is a regular columnist for the News Journal and a former pastor in the area. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.