Invest in Happiness

Researchers have collected data since 1938 for the Harvard Study of Adult Development. The study is quite rare due to its longevity. It has been looking for answers to the simple question, “What makes a happy and meaningful life?”

The study follows the lives of 724 men from different socioeconomic backgrounds. In a Ted Talk the current director of the project, Robert Waldinger, summarizes the results by answering a practical question: “If you were to invest now in your best future self, where would you put your time and energy?” People live as though the answer is found in wealth accumulation or career ambition. The study data shows otherwise. “The good life is built,” Waldinger says, “with good relationships.”

The absence of relationships means pervasive loneliness, a toxic feeling. Poor quality relationships do not help because conflict is also pathological to the human body. But a trustworthy friendship is therapeutic. Applied to senior adults, good, close relationships over time make the pains of physical decline less depressing. Waldinger’s takeaway is, “If you want to make one decision to ensure your health and happiness, it should be to cultivate warm relationships of all kinds.”

To be intentional about relationships is to invest in health and happiness. Think more face time, less social media. Work at reconciliation. Set aside feuds and grudges. Say yes to gatherings. Even introverts benefit from having friends, even though it’s more work for them.

The research affirms ancient wisdom in the Bible: relationships matter. But contrary to Waldinger’s emphasis, that’s not just a self-help formula. Your investment in relationships helps others find meaning in life, too. The most meaningful relationships are found in mutual faith. “What we have seen and heard we proclaim to you also,” John wrote, “so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father, and with His son Jesus Christ” (1 Jn. 1:3). When you meet a stranger who is a fellow believer, you have an instant connection as family.

C.S. Lewis connected relationship building with the Golden Rule (“do unto others…”) then writes, “but I cannot really carry it out til I love my neighbor as myself; and I cannot learn to love my neighbor as myself til I learn to love God; and I cannot learn to love God except by learning to obey Him.” And what command do you obey? “This is His commandment, that we believe in the name of His son Jesus Christ, and love one another” (1 Jn. 3:23). Faith, love, relationships, and meaning are all connected.

Once again, modern science confirms the Bible. God designed humans to live and flourish in community with Him and with our fellow travelers. When you make relationships a priority investment, you and your friends are happier and healthier.

He Gets Us

During the Super Bowl, two ads stirred up a conversation about Jesus. The “He Gets Us” campaign has been active since 2022. They have posted other videos at

Spokesman Jason Vanderground told CNN, “Our focus is on helping people see and consider Jesus as He is shown in the Bible.” One of the Super Bowl ads features a series of still images of people yelling, arguing, and fighting. It closes with the tag, “Jesus loved the people we hate.” This ad is called “Love Your Enemies,” words straight from Jesus’ mouth.

It didn’t take a minute for a feisty political influencer to diss the video as “making fascism look benign.” Some of the images apparently show people she disagrees with, and everybody knows you don’t love someone you disagree with. But that’s the point, isn’t it? Jesus loves those people anyway.

You can see reflections of that kind of love if you look. Parents love like that. They may endure loud objections from their child, but they refuse to let him jeopardize his health or let her be exposed to risk. Having a child’s buy-in is helpful, but not a prerequisite for parental love.

Jason and Travis Kelce love each other despite disagreeing. They were the first brothers ever to play in the Super Bowl on opposite teams. Naturally, each wanted his own team to win. After the game, Jason congratulated Travis, cracked a smile and said, “Go celebrate!” Then they both said, “I love you.”

Jesus loves people before they agree with Him or change their mind about Him. You hear that in His lament, “Jerusalem, who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to you! How often I wanted to gather your children together, the way a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were unwilling” (Matt. 23:37).

As tough as that kind of love is, it’s the love He expects of His followers, “so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven” (Matt. 5:45). It’s a love that “does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth” (1 Cor. 13:7). To encourage people to embrace a harmful lie is not love, but a ruinous empathy. To love like Jesus means respecting someone’s value as a person while kindly offering to show her or him the Kingdom of God is near.

Jesus is attractive because He loves sinners, not just saints. He has compassion for people even if their positions, opinions, and beliefs hold their souls in bondage, and even if they disagree with Him. Why? Because His way is true and brings peace to a troubled soul. And because He gets us.

“While we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son” (Rom. 5:10).

The Broken Prayer

Indiana Jones traveled the world and faced treacherous situations to accomplish his purpose. So did Bob Pierce, only he’s not fictitious. Pierce’s purpose was simple: to tell people who Jesus is. His method was practical compassion – meeting people at their point of need, hoping to earn their permission to talk about Jesus.

Pierce was a contemporary of Billy Graham. They were both involved in Youth for Christ as young men. Pierce went on to found Samaritan’s Purse. He was a mentor to Franklin Graham who succeeded Pierce at that organization. “I never dreamed of the impact Bob would have on my son,” Billy Graham said, “imparting to him the same vision that he had.”

Pierce lived as a broken man who prayed. A lot. You’ll understand what I mean by broken with this favorite prayer of his: “Let my heart be broken by the things that break the heart of God.” When God answered that prayer, Pierce acted. “He firmly believed that when God burdened his heart with a deep need,” Franklin Graham said, “he was not to rest until he had done something about it – regardless the cost.”

During the Lebanese civil war in the 1970’s, Pierce traveled to support pastor Sami Dagher. Pierce was within a month of losing his battle with leukemia. After the church service, the shelling began again. Travel being too risky, Dagher stayed with Pierce in his hotel room. “That was the most unusual, inspiring night I have ever known,” Dagher said. “Bob prayed all night long! Hour after hour, as he prayed for people I didn’t know as well as people under fire that night, the presence of God was so real I didn’t dare close my eyes. I just lay at the feet of this man who was dying…and knew how to die.”

Richard Halverson, the former Chaplain of the U.S. Senate, also knew Pierce well. “Bob Pierce functioned from a broken heart,” Halverson wrote. “It was absolutely uncanny how he would manage to be at a place of crisis when it occurred.” That was probably due to another of Pierce’s favorite prayers. “Lord, I give you license to interfere in my life and plans at any time, in any way, at any cost to me.”

I feel safe in saying Pierce would not want you to consider him some kind of super-Christian. He believed all Christians really have only one thing to do. How you fulfill that one thing is unique to you. Pierce closed one of his last letters with these final words. “This one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 3:13-14, KJV).

Nothing But The Truth

In the Declaration of Independence, America’s founders held certain “truths to be self-evident.” I wonder if today’s politicians regard truth with such respect. Recently, Vice President Harris declared, “We are each endowed with the right to liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” True, but she redacted “endowed by God” and “right to life.” It wasn’t the whole truth. Politicians on both sides do that.

We live in a skeptical age when “truths turn into dogmas,” per G. K. Chesterton. That means it’s true only because you believe it, not because it is self-evident. In the early 20th century, Chesterton predicted the day when defending the self-evident would be a struggle. “Fires will be kindled to testify that two and two make four. Swords will be drawn to prove that leaves are green in summer.” We are there. In some quarters, to stand on common sense or self-evident truth as revealed by God is to risk being insulted, canceled, or fired. Not even a groveling apology will fix it.

Personal opinion is the rock that shipwrecks truth. For example, “It isn’t just that I don’t believe in God and hope that I’m right in my belief,” philosopher Thomas Nagel wrote. “It’s that I hope there is no God! I don’t want there to be a God; I don’t want the universe to be like that.” At least he’s honest about what he wants truth to be, but opinion cannot change truth. Truth should change opinion.

Philosopher Lawrence Krauss makes that point. “The universe is the way it is, whether we like it or not. The existence or nonexistence of a creator is independent of our desires.” He was arguing against God. But his point applies equally to the evidence for a Creator as revealed in nature. “Our beautiful, expanding, and finely tuned universe,” scientist Stephen Meyer writes, “and the exquisite, integrated, and informational complexity of living organisms bear witness to the reality of a transcendent intelligence – a personal God.”

A season three episode of “The Chosen” series portrays Jesus returning to his hometown of Nazareth. Friends and village leaders are excited to see Him until He applies Isaiah’s Messianic prophecies to Himself. He says, “Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing” (Luke 4:21). That’s not what they want to hear, so they turn on Jesus. This new information has no bearing on their opinion.

Jesus said he came to “release the captives.” It is only too human to be a captive of borrowed opinions or your own self-deceptions. The good news is that Jesus has a solution! “If you continue in My word,” He says, “then you are truly disciples of Mine and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free” (John 8:31-32). Nothing but the truth, so help me God!