What is more important than happiness?
So now I’m living in the ‘happiest’ country in the world. Switzerland usually does well in any international ranking based on wealth, social development, transparency and the environment. However, I was surprised that it ranked first place for happiness in the 2015 World Happiness Report. It’s probably because we eat more chocolate than any other nation. That can’t be a bad thing. Can it?
Over the years Switzerland has secured its place at the top of the list for global competitiveness, global innovation, human development, global peace and press freedom. It is often assumed that money, wealth and a healthy gross domestic product are factors in Switzerland’s success. It is easy to find a winner when you measure these kinds of areas.
The recent survey on happiness used many economic factors to reach its conclusions. Canada came fifth on the list. But can we really quantify happiness? There is no doubt that a strong and stable economy with a democratic government provides more opportunity for its citizens. But for me these kinds of rankings miss out on an important part of life – spirituality.
In the 16th century Switzerland was the center of the Protestant Reformation. It was a time of great spiritual vitality and recovery of Biblical truth. Granted it wasn’t a perfect period of time but there was a great spiritual awakening. Today there seems to be a great spiritual slumber. An increasing number of Swiss nationals are cutting their ties to the state church. Attendance at Sunday services has long since dropped off and now numerous church parishes are closing around the country each year. The number of people self-identifying as agonist or atheist is growing. Switzerland is moving towards becoming a post-Christian nation. While the economy offers plenty there is a spiritual famine in the land.
A spiritual famine is one of those things you don’t notice right away. Having wealth and material comforts can compensate for an empty spirit – for a while. Eventually people are forced to look closer at their inner life. The material world is temporal and will fade away but the spiritual world is eternal. Deep within us we hunger for the eternal.
Most days I am struck by the contrast I sense in Switzerland. It’s one of the richest countries in terms of economic wealth and yet has become one of the poorest countries in spirit. Switzerland needs a fresh renewal and revival, a new move of God’s spirit. Thinking back on the Reformation that changed this country almost five hundred years ago I remember Habakkuk’s prayer:
Lord, I have heard of your fame;
I stand in awe of your deeds, Lord.
Repeat them in our day,
in our time make them known; (Habakkuk 3:2)
That’s my prayer for Switzerland; Lord, repeat your awesome deeds in our day and age. Send fresh renewal and revival to people who have wandered away. Visit us again with something more important than happiness – the salvation of the Lord.
Please join me in that prayer.