People want to be happy. In fact, for many, happiness is their ultimate goal in life. There are all sorts of formulas for achieving true happiness. Immanuel Kant, the 18th century German philosopher, took the esoteric route, saying, “Happiness is not an ideal of reason, but of imagination.” Charles Schulz was much more practical in his approach, writing, “Happiness is a warm puppy.” Some look for happiness in wealth, some in relationships, and some in experiences. If you are on a quest for happiness, there are certain countries where you will have a greater possibility of finding it.
Since 2012, the United Nations has sponsored an annual World Happiness Report. In order to make their analysis, one thousand people are surveyed in each of 149 countries. These participants are asked their perceptions of their lives in six key areas: GDP per capita, social support, health life expectancy, freedom to make life choices, generosity, and freedom from corruption.i Denmark dominated the first years of the survey, only bumped out of first position by Switzerland and Norway for one year each. But in 2018, Finland jumped to the top of the list, and it has remained there ever since.ii “Interesting,” you may think, “but what does this have to do with Behold Israel?”
Nine of the top ten happiest countries are European. Ranked 9 and 11, you will find New Zealand and Australia, respectively. Then you come to the first country that is neither European nor Down Under. That nation is Israel, ranked the twelfth happiest on the face of the earth.iii Yes, we’re talking Israel – only 72 years old, having spent much of its existence having to politically and militarily defend its right to exist, and until very recently completely surrounded by enemies. Despite all that, we just can’t help being happy.
You may ask, “How does a country that is filled with people who love to be miserable become so happy?” Great question! It can only be a work of God. In Ezekiel 36-37, the Lord promised His prophet that He would restore His people and their land. Now, 2500 years later we see that God has accomplished those very things to such an extent that there are 137 other countries looking at this happiness list and thinking, “I sure wish we were as happy as those Jews.” I don’t know that any other nation has made that statement since the time of King Solomon.
Now, before you pack up your household to move to Israel, let’s address the camel in the room. Happiness is not all it’s cracked up to be. If you spend your life striving to be happy, then you are going to have the occasional great day and a whole lot of miserable ones. That is because happiness is just an emotion. Therefore, it is fleeting. God never promises us happiness in this life. But that’s because He has something better for us – joy.
I don’t know where modern Israel would rank on the joy list, but I don’t think it would be very high. The same is true with all those high-up-the-happiness-scale European countries. That is because true joy cannot be separated from the hope that is found in a relationship with Jesus Christ. Joy tells us that no matter the difficulties we face, we’ll be okay because we are right with God. If we lose our home or if COVID gets us or if a spouse leaves or if we receive a chronic diagnosis, our happiness level can plummet to the depths. But joy will never change, because it is based on a God who never changes. Joy will never leave us, because our faithful Father will always be by our side. And we know that when this often-times difficult life is over, we will be with our Savior forever. When that happens, our happiness will never end.
Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.
i “Israel Climbs To 12th Spot In World Happiness Report 2021.” NoCamels, 21 Mar. 2021, nocamels.com/2021/03/israel-12th-world-happiness-report-2021/.
ii Read the Reports, worldhappiness.report/archive/.
iii World Happiness Report 2021, worldhappiness.report/ed/2021/.