I was watching the Today Show one day this week. They had three people - I think it was two psychologists and a rabbi. Apparently there was a poll taken of 1 million people, not including income, color. Just a simple question, "Are you happy?" Well the good news is the really young and the really old are really happy. The bad news is...the ones in the middle - not so much.
Here's the link to the article: MiddleAgeIsTrulyDepressing,StudyFinds
The discussion was all about why that was. How come people in their late 30's through 40's are so unhappy? The average age the dip started was 44 1/2 and folks didn't emerge from it until after their 50's. What they discussed made good sense. The pressures of providing for the future are suddenly a very real thing. Babies are no longer babies - they are growing children - a lot faster than you thought they were going to. Parents are getting older and are having to be provided for as well in some cases. Of course there are many factors that can either add to or take away from the unhappiness. Marriages not being what you thought is one, debt being another, sickness...rebellious teens, not to mention all the changes that come. Can't see like we use to, can't fit into the clothes we use to...heck - we don't even know what's "in" anymore. We are too busy taking care of our kids and holding things together!
Apparently middle age is the beginning of enlightenment. We were too young to understand how hard it was when we were children (ignorance really is bliss) and we are not yet old enough to understand that it is not the end of the world and that there is a point we get use to all the changes and become comfortable with who we are. We then become happy again. And enjoy life again. We finally reach the Age of Enlightenment.
Do you know what is really interesting about the study? They also took into account where people lived. Can you believe that the happiest people were not the ones who lived in the sunny South or the Bahamas where the weather is fine? The people who were happiest were the ones who lived in places like Iceland, and Finland. The reason? Because they have to depend on each other more. They are a group of people who look to each other in the dark, cold of their climate to meet each others needs. They are a community. They support each other and care for each other in that community. The people are closer and felt more content because the relationships in their villages are close. They have people - so to speak. Someone they know they can count on.
That is an amazing find. We need each other. We are to support each other. We are to find our contentment in relationships not status and possessions. The problem with middle age is we are just learning that. We are on the cusp of understanding but are so busy trying to make ends meet that we can't quite grasp it. Then the kids go to college and we kind of get a handle on the finances and suddenly we realize. We understand. We start to really live, to really find happiness.
But you know - we don't have to wait. As a matter of fact I believe it is possible to find that happiness well before our "Golden Years". Especially for those who are in Christ. He has called us to love one another. He has given us this advice and if we live it, we will find our contentment. We will find that the Age of Enlightenment is now and not in the future. We can live a full life well before our fifties. This is joy and it should be present in the believers life even in the midst of trials and difficulties. Does that mean that each day will be easy breezy? I do not think that is what the study was about at all. Happiness does not mean no worries. Happiness is a state of mind. I believe that it is contentment and being comfortable in your own skin. I believe it comes from knowing that your tomorrow's are under control. And for a believer, that is a given. That is joy.
There are still worries. There are still...hormones...ugh. There are still little ones and teenage years and parents that need caring for. BUT, if we can remember that it is all just so temporary. And then we move to the next stage. Learning to be happy where we are today is HUGE. As a matter of fact...I was speaking to an older lady the other day, she said that her kids were harder now than they had ever been. The reason is because she could not make it better for them anymore. They were adults with kids of their own. Her struggle came from not being able to be hands on anymore and help and fix things like she had been able to when they were younger. They had to make their own way. I can imagine that is hard for a Mama. I remember when I was at home with the twins, nursing them and changing diapers unendingly, a friend told me that it just got harder when they got to school and to enjoy that time I had with them as babies. I was shocked and then I was shocked yet again to hear my sweet older friend say it got harder still even when they were no longer children.
You know what that says to me though? There is never an end to our struggle to make things right in our world. But that does not mean we cannot find our footing here and be happy. I absolutely believe that we can. And...what if, we miss a blessing, miss the joy of the present because we keep waiting to get through whatever stage we are in before we think we can finally find that joy. No, God has given us everything we need to be content here and now. We have His Word, His Holy Spirit and each other. By prayer, study and fellowship we can have joy even in the hard times. How blessed are we?