Is it different for each person? Obtaining some new material thing can bring at least some temporary joy; so too can accomplishing some strived-for milestone. Some people feel that having money and success in their job brings happiness. But does it last? We have merely to look at the countless rich people who feel something is still lacking to see that this isn't the answer. And conversely, we can look at countless people struggling in third world countries who are at peace and happy in their lot. People want to feel that they are relevant; that they have a purpose. How do you do that? Can you find happiness?
New Church theology says that it is actually quite simple. The doctrine of use (or usefulness, or service) tells us that it is important to be useful, to be of service to others, and that this is the key to true happiness. This is why we are here on earth.
"We are born for no purpose but to be useful to the community we live in and to our neighbor as long as we are alive in the world, and to serve at the Lord's good pleasure in the other world." (Secrets of Heaven 1103:2)
"The only source of anyone's true happiness is doing something useful." (True Christian Religion 735:5)
"[Heavenly joy] is the delight found in doing something useful for ourselves or for others." (True Christian Religion 734:3)
"God created the universe so that usefulness could exist… Because we, the human race, are the principal reason for creation, it follows that absolutely everything else was created for our sake." (True Christian Religion 67)
God creates each one of us to be an instrument of His love. When we live useful and productive lives for the sake of others, the love of God passes through us to them, and their lives are impacted for good. At the same time, we experience the happiness and delight that are associated with being of use.
This is not to say that riches or material things are bad in and of themselves, just that these are not what make a person happy over the long term; certainly not in life after death. Christ said:
“‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets.” (Matthew 22:37-40)
So He tells us that the two most important things are to love God and love the neighbor. When we love the neighbor we want to be of service to others; we want to be useful. And when we are helping others, we are helping God and loving God (see the parable in Matthew 25:31-46, "I was hungry and you gave Me food…). Christ said these were the most important commandments because He knew that service and usefulness are what bring happiness, both in this life and the next!
Have you noticed that it is not at all unusual for elderly people to lose their zest for life, to become depressed? Certainly, there can be many reasons for this: infirmity and losing their friends or spouse can be key contributors. But a major reason is feeling the loss of usefulness; feeling that they have nothing left to give; feeling that they have lost relevance. This feeling of a loss of usefulness can also sometimes be seen after a person retires from their work, or has been injured.
It's important to realize that service and usefulness come in many forms. Some forms of use require strenuous work, or lots of time, or lots of money. But service doesn't necessarily mean going out of your way to do good. Just having a good attitude in your daily work, or being nice to someone, smiling at them, can mean more than you could imagine to those around you. For other people, usefulness outside their vocation brings them fulfillment. Everyone has gifts which they can volunteer to others. Listening compassionately to a person's problems will mean so much to them. Look for ways to be of service to others. It may well be hard at first, but it can become a habit, and make a real difference in your life. Give it a try!
"Real joy, which comes from loving to do good things without wanting to be repaid, is the reward that lasts forever. The Lord puts heaven and unending happiness into this kind of goodness." (New Jerusalem and its Heavenly Doctrine 156)
"Since the angels who are in heaven are in goodness from the Lord, they desire nothing more than to perform useful services. These bring delight to their life, and it is according to useful services that they enjoy bliss and happiness." (Secrets of Heaven 6073:2)
"Loving the Lord and our neighbor is being of service." (Heaven and Hell 112)
"All the happiness angels have is found in service, derives from service, and is proportional to service." (Heaven and Hell 403)
"[The Lord] gives those who are performing useful functions a love for being useful, and also a reward for being useful, which is inner bliss; and this inner bliss is eternal happiness." (True Christian Religion 736:3)
"The only source of anyone's true happiness is doing something useful." (True Christianity 735:5)
"Life holds no joy unless it is active. Angelic life consists in usefulness and acts of neighborly kindness." (Secrets of Heaven 454)
"Worship of the Lord consists in performing useful services." (Secrets of Heaven 7038)
"Christian charity is actually a matter of faithfully performing a useful occupation. If we turn our backs on evils because they are sins, we are daily doing what is good." (Doctrine of Life 114)