What makes you happy? What makes you unhappy? Are happiness and being fulfilled the same thing? Maybe you caught the news story...or maybe you didn't...but MTV and The Associated Press released a Youth Happiness Study this week. Pollsters interviewed 1200+ youth, age 13 through 24, and asked them 100 questions about happiness.
As a teen, I'm guessing that you will probably not be surprised by the findings. You know what makes teens happy, just from hanging out with your friends. But for the sake of any adults reading this article - here's the scoop...
When asked 'What one thing in life makes you most happy?' most youth chose to answer-guess what? Money, sex, cars, being off from school? No. Less than 1% of youth gave those answers. The big winner was spending time with family, followed by time with friends, and loved ones. Relationships are incredibly important to young people! And today's youth have it figured out that the determining factor in what makes you happy is not owning more stuff and it's not even determined by your particular life circumstances - like having a job you like or being healthy. It's whether the key relationships in your life are satisfying.
It seems many teens instinctively know one of central truths at the very core of Jesus' teachings. He puts it out there straight in John 15:11-15:
I've told you these things for a purpose: that my joy might be your joy, and your joy wholly mature. This is my command: Love one another the way I loved you. This is the very best way to love. Put your life on the line for your friends. You are my friends when you do the things I command you. I'm no longer calling you servants because servants don't understand what their master is thinking and planning. No, I've named you friends because I've let you in on everything I've heard from the Father. (The Message)
Jesus is telling us here that putting yourself out there for your family or friends is a great thing. But the even more amazing message here is that he considers us his friends, when we become his followers. It's all about relationships! With God and with others.
And whether the young people answering the MTV-AP Youth Happiness survey realize it or not, that sense deep inside that relationships are the source of human happiness, has everything to do the reality that God created us to be relational and he created us to be in relationship with Him.
As a Christian, you've experienced the wonder of having your broken relationship with God restored, through Jesus' work on the cross. The Bible puts it this way in Romans 5:11:
"So now we can rejoice in our wonderful new relationship with God because our Lord Jesus Christ has made us friends of God" (NLT).
But do you have friends who are missing out on this rich and meaningful relationship with God and the free gift of eternal life that Jesus offers?
Take the opportunity this week to talk with your friends about happiness and about relationships. Here are some ideas to help you move the conversation toward God-talk:
- Ask your friends what one thing makes them most happy? If family, friends or loved ones aren't central to their answer, ask them why they aren't.
- What about God? Find out if they believe a relationship with God contributes to a person being happy? Share what you believe.
- Why do you think relationships are so important to our happiness?
- Do you think happiness and 'being fulfilled' are the same thing? When the MTV-AP survey asked this question, 59% of the youth indicated they believed they are two different things. Find out what your friends think.
- What do you think it takes in life to 'be fulfilled'? What does purpose and meaning look like for your friends? Does God play a part in where they find purpose and meaning? Share what you believe.
Relationships are important - to you and to your friends. So talk with them about the most important relationship someone can ever have, a relationship with the God of the Universe. After all, knowing God is the ultimate source of happiness for every human being!
Jane Dratz works for Dare 2 Share Ministries in Arvada, Colo., a ministry committed to energizing and equipping teens to know, live, share and own their faith in Jesus. For more information on Dare 2 Share Ministries, please visit www.dare2share.org. Send feedback to email@example.com.