All mornings were the same. Every day he woke up feeling depressed and dejected and the sunrise only meant the burden of a new day he had to endure. In the book "The Secret of Happiness", Billy Graham reveals a moment from the life of this mentally ill man. More precisely, the moment he decides to consult a psychiatrist for a way out of the abyss of depression.
The session didn’t work as planned: any solution the doctor tried to offer was met with unwavering pessimism. As the patient was about to leave the cabinet, the psychiatrist played his last card: he remembered that there was an Italian clown in town who made his audience laugh every evening.
"Yes, I recommend you see this Italian clown. This will have a therapeutic effect and you will surely forget about your troubles”.
With a dejected expression never leaving his face, the patient replied:
"I am that clown".
* * * * *
Be honest ‒ we often tend to peek over the fence, studying the lives of others: intelligent, talented, wealthy or famous, imagining they have the perfect lives, free of anxiety or debt or the everyday worries. We never think that they might be pretending to be happy. The illusion we’re left with is that, if only we had what they have, we’d surely be happy. Eventually we also come to pretend we’re happy, because we’re never content with what we have.
If neither fame, nor money or intellectual abilities can bring us peace, then what is the secret of happiness?
An unhappy king
At one point in his life, King Solomon decided to seek out the true meaning of human existence, determined to live an ideal life. Solomon believed that if there was anyone in the world who could find full satisfaction in life, he was surely the one. But Solomon imposed a condition to his research: he would search in his own way, according to his own criteria. He hoped that his wise intellect would help him discover the secret of human abundance without appealing to divine revelation. So Solomon began to search for the supreme good everywhere "under the sun".
Solomon's research concluded rather depressingly, namely that life is nothing but vanity and chase after the wind – “I have seen all the things that are done under the sun; all of them are meaningless, a chasing after the wind” (Ecclesiastes 1:14). He had everything at his command, but realised he needed none of it. Despite his tremendous wisdom and wealth, he was unable to find the perfect life. Of course, his conclusion is correct. If we do not try to rise above the sun, our trivial life is going to end up being cyclical and monotone, and finally forgotten.
Solomon's experience anticipated the truth in the words of Jesus: "Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again" (John 4:13). No experience here on earth can satisfy our thirst. Compared to the fountain of everlasting life that God offers us, the things we so desperately try to achieve here are only disillusion and ostentation.
The message of the Ecclesiastes is not a tragic one that is trying to suppress our lust for life, but one that warns us that we could be searching for an ideal life endlessly, without an answer. We would end up depressed and ungrateful for everything we actually have.
Where can you find happiness?
Blaise Pascal once said, “There is a God-shaped vacuum in the heart of every person, and it can never be filled by any created thing. It can only be filled by God, made known through Jesus Christ”, and I couldn’t agree more!