For those of us in the southern part of the country, the last few weeks have been all about hurricanes. Harvey and Irma turned people’s lives upside down. In the aftermath, however, an unexpected secret to happiness can be seen.
As scores of volunteers, many from churches, flooded into the areas impacted, something miraculous happened. The truth of Christ’s words, “Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted,” began to take place. The word translated “blessed” is makarios in the Greek, which can also be translated “happy.” The comfort brought to those in need certainly brought them a level of joy, but a beautiful extension of that truth is that it also brings joy to those providing the comfort.
Helen Keller said, “Believe, when you are most unhappy, that there is something for you to do in the world. So long as you can sweeten another's pain, life is not in vain.” If you are not happy with your life, consider stepping outside of your circumstances to help someone who is in pain. Working to alleviate the suffering of others not only serves their needs, but it takes your focus off of yourself. It’s hard to complain about your problems when you’re personally involved with someone else’s problems. This shift in perspective will restore a level of happiness.
There are numerous examples in the Bible and throughout history of people engaging in acts of kindness to help those in need. They are revered as saints and heroes for good reason: they are fulfilling the role of the Good Samaritan that Jesus commands all of His followers to be.
The beauty of this path to happiness lies in its simplicity. All of us can help someone in some way. It just requires stepping outside of ourselves as we give time and effort to improve someone else’s life. No measure of service or sacrifice is too small.
It should be noted that helping others involves sympathy (compassion for someone) or empathy (sharing in their pain), but not necessarily a complete assumption of their burden. Psalm 55:22 says, "Cast your burden upon the Lord and He will sustain you....” Jesus said, "Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest" (Matthew 11:28, NAS).
Helping others means meeting some of their needs while pointing them to Jesus. We are clearly told to allow Jesus Christ to take our burdens. Taking others’ burdens can hinder our happiness if we are not careful. We shouldn’t compound our own suffering with the suffering of others, but join with them in casting all of our cares upon Him. God can handle it; we cannot.
Suffering is an unavoidable part of this life, but we can experience the happiness that God wants to impart to us as we live in obedience. Helping others improves their lives, but it also enables us to taste the joy of the Lord.