The three legs of the stool of happiness would have to be the scriptural companion virtues of faith, hope and charity. Why? Probably because they all center in Jesus-Christ! And also because « the joy we feel has little to do with the circumstances of our lives and everything to do with the focus of our lives. » 1 When Jesus-Christ is the focus of our lives, come what may, there is happiness and joy!
The world views these three virtues as dreamy, untangible and powerless. The Lord sees them as sure, enabling and mighty. Surely, there is nothing flimsy, fleeting or ephemeral about them :
- Scriptural faith is not an objectless, shaky confidence that things might be ok this time. Rather it is faith in the Lord Jesus-Christ 2, the peaceful assurance that no matter what perilous seas we might sail, if we sail with Him, His grace will be sufficient every time.
- Likewise, gospel hope is not wordly hope, which centers on uncertain desired futurities. It is not the kind of desperate wish we resort to when our favourite sport team has lost their last game and can only win the championship if their direct competitor lose their next one! No, gospel hope is « hope in Christ »3 and centers on the eternal promises received and the certainty of their future reality through Jesus-Christ : thus, gospel hope invites us to continual, deliberate and effectual action. It is not crossing fingers when no more action on our part can effect the desired result: it is crossing our arms to pray and rolling up our sleeves to act. Hope in Christ makes men « sure and steadfast, always abounding in good works »4.
- Lastly, charity is not the abstract capacity to experience cosmic acceptance for anyone, but it is « love » 5, even « the pure love of Christ » 6, the kind of love He has for everyone. It is the transforming gift we receive when our « bowels [are] full of charity towards all men » 7, unlike the man who said:. « Oh, I love humanity ! It is people I have problems with… »
Because these virtues are all Christ-centered and action-oriented, they are power-inducing in our lives. Love is the crowning of the three and the visible mark of our discipleship8. But all three bind us to the Saviour and, consequently, together as his disciples. This is, after all, the kind of bond religion is meant to be9. And these virtues are as interconnected as the seed, the flower and the fruit of the same plant, representing various stages of growth and power to bless.
On the contrary, the Adversary would have us sit on his own stool of misery, legged by doubt, despair and disdain10. Doubt clouds the light, despair darkens the horizons and disdain brings isolation and loneliness.
As we navigate the world’s troubled times, let us choose carefully the stool we sit on. Today’s uncertainty might be the Lord’s way of inviting us to come down on our knees to Him, to exercise faith in Him, to let Him brighten our hope, and to seek from Him our personal fruition as we receive the gift of charity for all. Then, as we become more trusting, less volatile, more prone to act, kinder, more patient, more compassionate, less judgmental and more understanding, we will certainly know what happiness feels like.
1 Russell M. Nelson, Joy and spiritual survival, Oct. 2016
2 4th article of faith
3 Jacob 2:19
4 Ether 12:4
5 2 Nephi 26:30
6 Moroni 7:47
7 DC 121:45
8 « By this shall men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another » John 13 :35
9 From the latin religare, to link, to bind together, to God and one to another
10 Russell M. Nelson, A more excellent hope, Jan. 1995