If geography has any bearing on one’s level of happiness, where would you go to be happier? 

Vacationers and snowbirds[i] often head south looking for sunshine, beaches and a relaxed lifestyle.  But according to the World Database of Happiness, Iceland is the happiest place on earth.  

With all its ice, snow and darkness during winter months, it ranked highest.  Why there?

Eric Weiner, Author of ‘The Geography of Bliss, traveled to Iceland to find out.  After interviewing a number of Icelanders, Weiner discovered that their culture doesn’t stigmatize failure.  Icelanders aren’t afraid to fail — or to be imperfect — and so they’re more willing to pursue what they enjoy.  That’s one reason Iceland has more artists per capita than any other nation.  “There’s no one on the island telling them they’re not good enough, so they just go ahead and sing and paint and write,” Weiner writes.
This makes them incredibly productive.  They don’t just sit around thinking they’d like to do something.  They do it.  According to the psychologist Mihaly Czikszentmihalyi, who wrote the book ‘Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience, “It is not the skills we actually have that determine how we feel but the ones we think we have.”
So if you think you’re good at something, whether or not you are, you’ll do it. The converse is also true: if you think you aren’t good enough at something, you won’t do it.[ii]

In pursuit of idyllic circumstance people often head in the wrong direction.  They head south when they should go north.  They have affairs when their satisfaction may be found in monogamy.  They take a higher paying job and pay with their pound of flesh.  They sell the drum set to buy an RRSP.

Jesus understood more than we will ever know about human satisfaction.  He lived it and taught the ways of God’s Kingdom; a state in which citizens experience peace, joy and love. 

One of his most famous teachings took place on a mountainside.  15th century Bible scholars used a common English word to describe the list of values found in Matthew 5.  They were called ‘The Beatitudes’.  The word ‘beatitude’ means to be in a state of utmost bliss.

Jesus is describing demanding situations that give the child of God an opportunity to experience a great amount of bliss, or we might say complete happiness.  What is that will make you completely happy after going through great difficulty?  The beatitudes give us a map to living in the Kingdom.

N.T. Wright provides a context for understanding Jesus’ teaching on the mountainside.  Wright says that Jesus is saying:

“Now that I’m here, God’s new world is coming to birth; and, once you realize that, you’ll see that these are the habits of heart which anticipate that new world here and now.” These qualities—purity of heart, mercy, and so on—are not, so to speak, “things you have to do” to earn a “reward,” a “payment.” Nor are they merely the “rules of conduct” laid down for new converts to follow…They are, in themselves, the signs of life, the language of life, the life of new creation, the life of new covenant, the life which Jesus came to bring.[iii]

These Kingdom attitudes are proofs of the resurrected Christ living in us.  Let us look closely at the virtuous attitudes being formed in unhappy circumstances. 

[i] Canadians who spend their winters in Florida or Arizona
[iii] N.T. Wright, After You Believe p.106