Happiness, and hope … or hopelessness? Happiness, part six.
Driving north on a country road, my boy mentioned a required class on happiness that he took in his last semester of college in Boston. Told me he was going to revisit the content now that homework's behind him, then said, ‘You oughta’ check it out, Mom--I think you’d like it.’ So I did. And we did--you and me.
While that was review for some of you, new folks add in every day...
The material came from the most popular class at Harvard University1 - located just across the bridge from Boston - in beautiful, historic Cambridge. Founded in 1636, one of Harvard's central bylaws was this:
“Let every student be earnestly pressed to consider well that the main end of his life and studies is to know God and Jesus Christ who is eternal life--and therefore to lay Christ in the bottom, as the foundation of all sound knowledge and learning.”2
Her motto: Truth for Christ and the Church
How things have changed! Today there are 40 chaplains for the spiritual needs of the 5200+ on-campus students at the beautiful old school. Check it out: the chaplains have a new president who is an atheist… specifically, Greg Epstein is an ordained humanist rabbi, and the humanism chaplain at Harvard since 2005.3 What is a humanist? Simply, a humanist does not believe in God or an afterlife - this life is all there is; human reasoning and science will supply the answers and meaning needed for living.
When Billy Graham was on campus and met with the president of the university in the 90s, he asked about the students’ biggest struggle. Only took a moment for President Bok to answer: living with emptiness. Hmmm... As things have grown even more secularized, it makes sense that the class on happiness could be so needed.
It is God who answers the significant questions, who gives us love and meaning in life, instructions for living and promise of eternal life. Absent God, of course emptiness - depression on the rise and suicide seen as a way out. So many students and young people in general have lost hope. What has occurred at Harvard (and our Godless universities) is just a picture of what has happened in our culture. So many people have lost hope.
Permit me this take ~
What oxygen is for the lungs, such is hope for the meaning of human life.
Take oxygen away and death occurs through suffocation,
take hope away and humanity is constricted through lack of breath;
despair and hopelessness set in.4
The Almighty God of the Universe alone is the source of all hope.
When an individual denies the evidence for the existence of God - [note: this is a willful, irresponsible abdication of truth, because not only has God revealed himself, but there is a credible, reasonable case for truth in God, supported by science, a historical Jesus, prophecy and the Word of God which has continued to withstand the toughest of scrutiny], our origin in him as Creator, Purposer of our ways, and the promise of being with him forever, life is meaningless--a chasing after the wind5, the future something to be dreaded, death an abysmal certitude.
David had it right ~
Yes, my soul, find rest in God; my hope comes from him.
Truly he is my rock and my salvation; he is my fortress, I will not be shaken.6
There is no happiness without hope; no hope without God. God cannot give us a happiness and peace apart from Himself, because it is not there. There is no such thing.7
A couple years ago, when life seemed so very overwhelming at times, I memorized Paul’s prayer for the Roman Christians:
May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace
As you trust in Him,
So that you may overflow with hope
Through the power of the Holy Spirit.8
Notice the cycle, notice the supernatural Source.
Trust in the Lord with all your heart,9 my friend, so that you may overflow with hope, for that is the fuel of happiness. Amen.
~>Powerful song by Shane & Shane: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PKs_gQecaDY
1 - from the book Happier by Dr. Tal Ben Shahar. If you have not read the last five briefings, please go to www.pastorwoman.net, select “Morning Briefings”
2 - from an essay entitled Harvard: Our Culture in a Microcosm, Reflections on the Existence of God by Richard E. Simmons.
3 - New York Times article: https://www.nytimes.com/2021/08/26/us/harvard-chaplain-greg-epstein.html
4 - Dr. Emil Brunner, brilliant Swiss reformed theologian
5 - Ecclesiastes 1.14
6 - Psalm 62.5,6
7 - C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity
8 - Romans 15.13
9 - Proverbs 3.5