In this post, I’m going to explore happiness as it relates to faith. Many of you may not be people of faith, but most of you probably are. Even if you aren’t, however, I believe that there are helpful lessons here to support you in your journey towards happiness.
I was buckled up, and the aircraft was ready for take off when the flight attendant announced, “We’ll be arriving in Paris in about 8 hours. Un shat Allah.” At the time I was a college student. I had spent the summer in the Middle East and my plane was finally leaving from Cairo, Egypt. The flight was late…very, very late. In fact, it had been a 32 hours since it was first scheduled to depart. I was completely exhausted, and I felt uneasy because I had learned that the delay was due to mechanical problems within the aircraft.
The rough translation of the flight attendant's intercom greeting, un shat Allah, was "God willing." Unfortunately, her words did little to ease my anxieties. I wanted to be assured that the airplane had been repaired perfectly. I wanted a guarantee that we would land safely in Paris. In other words, I wanted to hear something more specific than “We’ll arrive in Paris, God willing.”
So what do the flight attendants words, “un shat Allah,” have to do with the title of this post, “Faith and Happiness”? All major faith traditions share the common premise that God is omnipotent and omniscient. The role of God in people's lives have led to popular sayings such as, “Let go and let God.” In the Christian tradition there’s the Lord’s prayer, which was a devotion that Jesus taught his disciples. In it are the lines, “Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on Earth at it is in heaven.” I’d like to focus on, “thy will be done,” which is very similar to the flight attendant’s words, “un shat Allah.”
New Takes on Old Traditions
If you’re a person of faith, I encourage you to consider the true meaning of the words, “thy will be done.” Often, people take that famous sentence and simply ask that God’s will be done. But I believe the deeper message is to accept God’s will in your heart and to be happy with it. You do your best to fulfill your obligations, but in the end, you leave the outcome to God. For example, during my trip from Cairo, I’m certain that the flight attendant had hoped that the plane had been properly repaired, but she acknowledged that our safe arrival in Paris was ultimately up to God.
To be happy, you must accept that what happens is God’s will. When you accept that God’s will is being done, it means that whatever is in front of you is exactly what’s supposed to take place. This isn't easy to swallow when you feel disappointed with a particular outcome. But if happiness is your goal, then rather than bemoan what happened, you can tell yourself, “This wasn’t what I expected. But I did my best to rectify it. And now all I can do is to leave the rest to God.” This is the message that will lead to increased happiness in your life.
Thy Will Be Done as it Applies to Daily Living
Imagine that you were applying to three Ivy League universities. You had studied hard throughout high school, you scored high on your college entrance exam, but in the end Harvard, Yale, and Princeton all turned you down. If your objective is to happy, then your response to this bad news would go something like this: I did my part, and I prayed that I’d be accepted into one of the schools, but that didn’t happen. Because I know that thy will is being done, I’ll be happy with the school that accepts me. Life is like this—sometimes accepting the outcome of what is in front of you, right here, and right now, isn’t easy.
Accepting major illness takes, “thy will be done,” to its extreme. Let’s say that your significant other was diagnosed with cancer. As a result, you do everything in your power to support your spouse so that he or she continues to be as healthy as possible. But in order to be happy, you must be able to accept the outcome, whatever it is. In order to do this as you care for your sick spouse, you can remind yourself, “God’s will is being done, regardless of how I feel about it. I'll continue to acknowledge my feelings and not surpress them, and I'll do my part to take care of my partner. But if I’m going to be happy, I must accept "what is." By accepting “what is” over time, I may even learn to love “what is.””
This is a scary concept for most. But if faith really matters to you, then you probably believe that God is in control. God could choose to make things better, but since that hasn’t happened, you must accept what is.
I’ll end with perhaps one of the best prayers I could teach you. If you say it from the bottom of your heart, life will improve, especially during tough times.
“God, regardless of what happens, help me to accept what you give me and to be happy with it. Help me to believe that whatever happens is your will being done. Help me to accept what happens and love what happens. I may have things that I want and preferences, and I'll always do my part, but what I truly wish is to be happy. I trust and believe that what happens is exactly what you had in mind. Thank you.”
I know that this post could be tough to accept. But when you experience difficult times, handing them over to God can provide a peace that surpasses all understanding. Happiness awaits you when you let go and embrace the life in front of you.