In my early years of ministry I came across a story about the search for happiness. I do not know when or where the story originated, only that it has been around since at least the 1980’s. As I read it back then, the tale was of an unhappy woman searching for happiness. Everything she had tried, had neither filled her spirit or her soul with any kind of joy. One day she consulted a woman known for her wisdom. She is told that she will find happiness if she will return to the wise woman with a mustard seed. This is not just any mustard seed. The mustard seed must come from a home that has never known sorrow. Desperate for answers the unhappy woman set out on her search. At every door she asked the same question. “Is this a home that has never known sorrow?” Through villages and towns, wherever she went, the answer was always the same, “No, you came to the wrong place.” A painful story almost always followed that statement. Some deep grief or loss, a tragedy or a dream that was never fulfilled was part of the history of that home.
Yet, the woman persisted in her search . . . Knocking on door after door in her yearning to find a home that had never known sorrow and the magic mustard seed which would bring her happiness. Along the way she heard of losses that brought tears to the teller and the listener. Becoming immersed in the stories of those she visited, she became skilled in offering comfort and encouragement.
One day she realized that the old heaviness of heart was gone. She now knew that she would never find the mythical mustard seed, nor would she need to. Happiness was hers, whenever she sought to comfort, to love and to care for others in their pain. In consoling hurting people, she found purpose and meaning in her life. Joy followed in her path.
One of the great truths of life is that it is in giving that we receive. Whenever we search for happiness, happiness eludes us. Happiness cannot be found as a force by itself. Instead, happiness comes as a by-product of a life well lived. George Bernard Shaw once commented in an analysis of John Buynan’s Pilgrims’s Progress, “This is the true joy of life, the being used for a purpose recognized by yourself as a weighty one. . . instead of a feverish little clod of aliments and grievances, complaining that the world will not devote itself to making you happy.”
Jesus put it this way, “Seek Ye first the Kingdom of God . . . and all these things shall be added unto you.”