“It’s the way you ride the trail that counts,” is a line from “Happy Trails”, the theme song of Roy and Dale Evans Rogers. Their cheerful song made people feel happy. The message is practical, advising that smiling, singing and being together with friends will take away the clouds and bring sunny weather.
In an added religious stanza to “Happy Trails”, Roy and Dale share that the trail of meeting and knowing Jesus is the happiest trail of all. ["Happy Trails", by Dale Evans Rogers, www.royrogers.com]. Happiness is a powerful desire. A happiness index measures happiness by multiple factors that affect the conditions and satisfaction of people. Nationmaster.com, among numerous factors, measures happiness by things that provide for good health, longevity, prosperity, opportunities and a broad quality of life. Studies on personal happiness indicate that circumstances account for a mere 10% of personal happiness (See Dr. Henry Cloud, The Law of Happiness: How Spiritual Wisdom and Modern Science Can Change Your Life, Howard Books: 2011). The other 90% of happiness comes from a person’s physiological makeup and will. Thus even in nations where existing conditions promote happiness; still a people’s health, temperament, thoughts, choices and practices affects just how happy they really are.
The Bible book of Ecclesiastesis about an experiment in happiness. King Solomon was the wisest, richest, most powerful king and celebrity in ancient Israel. All the conditions and circumstances existed to also make him the happiest person ever. He admitted that he had wisdom, women and everything his heart desired. He built great works and made a great name for himself. Was he happy? He did have many happy experiences, but deep down he felt life was in vain – meaningless.
Research supports that spirituality and religion are significant factors in the happiness of adults and adolescents. Religion involves the common beliefs, rituals and practices of a religious faith. Spirituality is the internalized beliefs of a person’s faith that grounds their personal worth, provides purpose, guides relationships, and gives the strength and comfort of hope. Interestingly, a study shows that spirituality is much more important than religious practices for the happiness of younger children from ages 8 to 12. [Springer Science+Business Media (2009, January 12). Spirituality Is Key To Kids' Happiness, Study Suggests. ScienceDaily. Retrieved June 9, 2011, from http://www.sciencedaily.com /releases/2009/01/090108082904.htm]. Does it make sense to sharply contrast the happiness benefits of religion and spirituality since these are both aspects of a person’s faith and happiness?
Roy and Dale Rogers enjoyed the freedoms, prosperity, celebrity, opportunities and most of the conditions that promote happiness. Surely they also enjoyed the happiness benefits of spirituality and religion. Yet the added stanza shows they rode the trail of their internalized faith, which they expressed in the practice of a personal relationship with Jesus. Knowing and trusting Jesus is the happiest trail of all, for this is the trail that provides inextinguishable joy whether circumstances are good or bad [Philippians 4].