Well, for just such people, I have some good news today. According to an article by Teny Sahakian and published March 26, 2022 on www.FoxNews.com, New Jersey’s Centenary University has announced the first-ever Master of Arts Degree in “Happiness Studies”. The degree program, set to launch virtually in the fall, will educate leaders committed to the “cultivation of wellbeing” by exploring “the implications of happiness for individuals, the workplace, and our broader society”.
But be advised, it also comes with a price. $17,700 to be exact. According to Tal Ben Shahar, a happiness expert and the director of the program: “Whatever profession you identify, there is a place - a very important place for happiness studies - for the science of well-being.”
According to University President Bruce Murphy, It seems that the 1,100 student Hackettstown, NJ private college teamed up with the “Happiness Studies Academy” to create the new online, 30-credit graduate degree as an interdisciplinary program designed for “leaders who are committed to personal, interpersonal, organizational, and societal happiness.”
One person who is certainly happy about the new program is Ben-Shahar, who co-founded the Happiness Studies Academy. As he puts it: “We were thrilled when Centenary University President Murphy and his colleagues were willing to take the leap, so to speak, and create an academic field out of the fields of happiness, which is sorely needed in our world.”
Ben-Shahar continued: “When we're talking about happiness, we're talking about cultivating resilience, the ability to deal with hardships, with difficulties, and there's plenty to go around today. Whether you're talking pandemic, whether you're talking war, uncertainty, whether it's on the economic level, the emotional level. We need some practical advice, evidence-based advice to help people deal with difficulties.”
The degree is designed to accomplish this by incorporating aspects of multiple disciplines “ranging from psychology, philosophy and neuroscience to finance and business to literature, religion and music.”
This last phrase caught my attention. Turns out, religion does in fact have a lot to do with happiness. This is certainly true of one religion in particular: Christianity.
Numerous studies have been released which affirm this. The Gallup Organization, The Pew Research Center, and other entities have all reported such. (See notes below.) And why should we be surprised? After all, the scriptures are full of references to the abundance of happiness in the lives of God’s people. There are as many as 2700 passages in the Bible stressing such words as joy, gladness, merriment, pleasure, celebration, cheer, laughter, delight, jubilation, exultation, and the like among God's people.
We see this on display many times in the Old Testament. For instance…
“Happy are you, O Israel! Who is like you, a people saved by the Lord” (Deuteronomy 33:29). “Judah and Israel were as many as the sand by the sea. They ate and drank and were happy” (1 Kings 4:20). “How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him who brings good news, who publishes peace, who brings good news of happiness” (Isaiah 52:7).
The New Testament equally stresses happiness in the lives of believers.
Thus, Jesus tells his disciples, “If ye know these things, happy are ye if ye do them” (John 13:17 KJV). Speaking of faithful Christians, James said, “We count them happy which endure” (James 5:11 KJV). Peter said to fellow believers, “If ye suffer for righteousness’ sake, happy are ye” (1 Peter 3:14 KJV), and “If ye be reproached for the name of Christ, happy are ye” (1 Peter 4:14 KJV).
These New Testament verses all employ the term “happy” in translation of the Greek term “makarios”. It occurs some 26 times in the New Testament. According to scholars, it is best translated as “blessed or happy”. It comes from the root term “mak” meaning “to become long, or large”, from which we get the English cognate “macro”. Thus, it properly denotes the pleasantness experienced when God confers and/or extends His gracious benefits, advantages, and/or blessings upon His people.
True happiness, therefore, is not to be found in the world or its circumstances. Rather, it is based in a proper relationship with the Heavenly Father through His Son, Jesus Christ. As our delight comes through Him, and Him alone, it therefore transcends all the world offers, whether good or bad. True happiness, genuine happiness, therefore, consists of a quality of life experienced irrespective of the circumstances of daily life.
No doubt this is why Jesus Himself repeatedly chose to make use of this very word, this time translated as “blessed”, to begin the greatest sermon ever preached, the so-called “Sermon on the Mount”:
3“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 4Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. 5Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth. 6Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.
7Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy. 8Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God. 9Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God. 10Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
11“Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. 12Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.
These nine blessings are commonly called the Beatitudes. One preacher called the “Be-Happy Attitudes”. The great thing about the blessed life they describe is that anyone can have it. One does not have to enroll in a graduate degree program to find it. Nor does one have to expend tens of thousands of dollars to find it. All one has to do is to turn to the One who provides it so abundantly, the Heavenly Father, and ask for it.
Centenary University has apparently already received 38 applications for the program since it was first announced at the March 18 “World Happiness Summit” in Miami. This seems to prove that there really are a great many people who desire happiness. You might just be among them. If so, then I repeat what I said in my introduction: I have some really good news for you today. You can be happy – truly happy; and for this reason, I urge you to pursue happiness today.
But in that pursuit, I urge you to consider the happiness provided from above rather than the happiness provided by the world. For only the former, and not the latter, transcends the circumstantial ups and downs of daily life. Therefore, only the former, and not the latter, qualifies as true, genuine, and lasting happiness!