Happy New Year! But can we be truly happy in 2023?

As I call out Happy New Year to people for 2023 I’m reminded of a conversation Bilbo had with Gandalf in one of my favourite books of all time – The Hobbit. In it Bilbo sees Gandalf passing and calls out ‘Good Morning!’ thinking this was a safe exchange with a stranger. But Gandalf’s reply has always reminded me that it is often important to stop and think about what you’re going to say and what it means.

“What do you mean?” he said. “Do you wish me a good morning, or mean that it is a good morning whether I want it or not; or that you feel good this morning; or that it is a morning to be good on?”

“All of them at once,” said Bilbo. “And a very fine morning for a pipe of tobacco out of doors, into the bargain.

So Happy New Year! But do I wish you a happy new year or mean that it will be a happy year for you whether you want it or not, or that I feel happy or that 2023 will be a good year to be happy on?

What Makes You Happy?

Now you might think I’m overthinking this and you’re probably right but the question still lingers – what would make you happy?

As a child watching Robert Louis Stevenson’s Treasure Island I had a hunch that finding lots of treasure would make me happy. Surely money is the answer to all of life’s problems?

I did have a second option that I briefly flirted with – become a famous footballer and that way the riches will come too. That sounds like a perfect plan for happiness: fame and money.

The movie star Jim Carey has a sobering answer to that: ‘I hope everybody could get rich and famous and will have everything they ever dreamed of, so they will know that it is not the answer.

So what is the answer to happiness? It seems like that is what most people are pursuing these days – happiness is the top priority – so what will make you happy in 2023?

A great career? The problem is careers are temporary and if you focus on your career then it is very likely you will not have enough time to focus on your family. So is a loving family the answer? Well yes and no – the problem with finding a loving family is that family can leave and die and as soon as that is taken away – your happiness is too.

Finding True Happiness That Lasts

So how do we get true happiness? Is it different for different people? Maybe – but I still think I have five things that would make everybody happy if they were true – five elements that if combined what provide a truly happy 2023:

1: A love relationship that never ends

2: Some kind of meaning in life that gives you an identity and a purpose

3: Real justice in this world –

4: Beauty that does not fade

5: And a hope for a better tomorrow

Now whether this is possible or not isn’t the question I want you to think about – my question is – wouldn’t you want these five things if they were possible?

A love relationship that never ends – imagine that!

Meaning in life that gives you satisfaction and a purpose that provides a sense of belonging.

Justice in this world. We crave justice and deep down we hate it when people get away with injustice – wouldn’t it be awesome if some day Hitler and Stalin were actually brought to justice for what they’ve done? You can’t say that wouldn’t be nice!

Lasting beauty – a beauty that is forever and life-changing in a place that is beautiful – sounds nice doesn’t it?

As humans, we are hope-based creatures. We exist on the hope that tomorrow will be okay or better. Take away the hope of life and what do we have left to live for? Well imagine a tomorrow where life isn’t just going to be okay, but get infinitely better…that sounds like a good life – a happy life don’t you think?

Finding Happiness in Jesus

At this point I’ll admit this kind of happiness sounds like a dream. A good dream but still a dream. And I’d agree with you if it wasn’t for the reality of Jesus – who he is and what he has done – without him these five ingredients are unobtainable.

This is because Christianity says we can have:

1: A love relationship with Jesus that will never end!

2: Meaning in life through Jesus who gives you a purpose and a new identity!

3: Justice through Jesus. As judge of the world Jesus will one day bring every evil act to account!

4: A beautiful reality. Belief in Jesus opens our minds to a beautiful reality. Not simply one of outward beauty, but a moral beauty in a beautiful land where age and decay do not infect us!

5: And hope. Because of the resurrection of Jesus from the dead we can have a hope of a better tomorrow through an eternal life where there will be no more pain, tears, evil or death!

Of course, the accusation levelled at me will be this – it’s simply wishful-thinking to believe this nonsense!

And I would agree with you – only I’ve not searched for happiness in some blind vacuum. I’ve searched for happiness with truth as my grid-reference. I’ve looked into the truth of Jesus and found his claims and his actions convincing. I’ve found the truth and therefore found the key to happiness: Jesus.

And the amazing truth is that the five ingredients that would give us all lasting happiness are the five things that Jesus can provide for us!

The problem is most of us search for happiness independent of the truth. If this is you then let me challenge you for 2023– if this kind of happiness is even possibly true, why wouldn’t you want to investigate Jesus further?

Happy New Year.

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