Happy Lunar New Year!

The Chinese character “fu” is a familiar sight during Lunar New Year. It means happiness. Usually it is written upside-down, meaning that prosperity will reach one’s doorstep soon!

If we want to learn the concept of happiness in the Bible, I think the most famous place would be Matthew 5:1-12, which is titled The Beatitudes in English Bible. Beatitude means supreme blessedness or happiness. Indeed, while English Bible uses the words “Blessed are…,” Indonesian Bible uses words which, if translated literally into English, mean “Happy are….”

I was reading the passage a few days ago when I realised an important truth about the biblical concept of happiness. This truth came to me as I saw a repeating pattern which I consider as a most striking characteristic of the whole passage. It is the use of the verbs “are” and “will.”

Every saying in this passage (from verse 3 to 11) starts with a similar phrase: “Blessed are…,” while the reason for that follows in the following phrase: “for they will …” (verse 4 to 9). Verses 3, 10, and 11 do not use the verb “will,” but “is.” Nevertheless, they imply the same thing, i.e. that the reasons are accomplished as future events.

When I pondered upon these facts, I could not help to wonder why our human logic often, if not always, runs contrary to what the Bible teaches. What the Bible teaches about happiness is that the reason for our present blessedness or happiness does not lie on what we have at present, but on what we are promised in the future–on what we will have in the future. But often, if not always, we think that the reason for our present happiness should lie on what we have at present.

Another thing which I noted, which comes not as a surprising consequence of this truth, is that we are required to live up to what we believe. What this means is that if we dare to affirm that our reason for happiness is not the present (although the happiness is present and is real), then we should not make it present. What we need to do is to strive and struggle to the end, yet happily, because we know that our reward is assured. We must not stop being pure hearted, being poor in spirit, being meek, being merciful, etc. because these are what we need to be, now.

Our life is a long journey full of struggles, yes, but this is happiness, for we have reason to endure and be happy, the reason being the promise of our Lord.

Some time ago one Saturday night I was playing basketball with some friends at school. Since it was nearing midnight, we stopped playing and decided to go home. At the bus interchange, however, I took a wrong bus. It was too late when I realised that the bus didn’t seem to go through places I was familiar with. And when I decided to alight from the bus it was quite a long way home. I was very tired but I decided to walk back home. With all the energy I had left, I forced myself to walk, repeating to myself, “One step brings you closer to home. OK. Just hold on.” And I made it.

This experience reminds me that just as each step I took brings me closer to home, every step I take in this journey of life matters. And just as I said to myself, “Hold on,” likewise should I say along this journey, and act as if the reason for my happiness is never here and now, lest I succumb to complacency.

To quote the apostle Paul,

“Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:12-14).

This is the true happiness.


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