The Pursuit of Happiness

Two men, both seriously ill, occupied the same hospital room. One man was allowed to sit up in his bed for an hour a day to drain the fluid from his lungs. His bed was next to the room’s only window. The other man had to spend all his time flat on his back. The men talked for hours on end. They talked about their wives and families, their jobs and where they had been. And every afternoon when the man in the bed at the window could sit up, he would pass the time telling his roommate all the things he could see out of the window.

The man in the other bed would live for that hour when his world was broadened and enlivened with all the activity and color of the outside world. The window overlooked a park with a lovely lake, the man had said. Ducks and swans played on the water, whilst children sailed their model boats. Lovers walked arm in arm amid flowers of every color of the rainbow. Grand old trees graced the landscape with the city skyline in the background.

As the man described what he saw, the man in the other bed would close his eyes and imagine the picturesque scene. The man grew envious of his roommate’s position at the window. He thought it unfair that he never got to be at the window and he became resentful. Late one night, as he was lying staring at the ceiling, the old man at the window began to cough. He turned his head and watched the old man struggle to breathe as the fluid filled his lungs. He knew he could press the button to call the nurse, but did nothing. After about five minutes the coughing subsided and the room was quiet. The next morning the nurse arrived to find the man’s lifeless body and took him away.

As soon as it seemed appropriate, the man asked if his bed could be moved next to the window. The nurse was happy to move him and as soon as he was comfortable, she left him alone. Slowly, painfully, the man propped himself up on one elbow to look through the window. Finally he would have the joy of seeing it for himself. He strained to look out of the window at his bed. It faced a blank wall….

(Author unknown)


Above is the story of two men reacting differently to the same circumstances they are trapped in. Despite the situation, the man at the window had made a conscious choice to see beauty instead of bricks and in so doing was able to find joy and share it with his roommate thereby lighting up his life. The roommate, however, was not content with what he heard. He was envious and resentful of the man’s joy which he attributed to the position at the window. He wanted it all, so he callously watched the man’s death without lifting a finger in order to obtain that position for himself. Finally, when he had what he had coveted, he was rudely awakened to the harrowing truth and ended up with nothing.

Someone once said, “The pursuit of happiness is a matter of choice. It is a positive attitude we consciously choose to express. It is not a gift that gets delivered on our doorstep each morning, nor does it come through the window.”

Our circumstances do play a significant role as regards to what makes us joyful, but if we wait for them to become perfect, thinking that will bring true, lasting joy, we will be gravely disappointed in the end. We live in an imperfect world where there is much sadness, suffering, pain and poverty, and this situation is not getting better. However, when we know who Christ is, what He has done for us, and we choose to allow His Spirit to dwell in us, true joy flows from within giving us strength to face and overcome life’s many challenges, and at the same time touch the lives of those who come in contact with us.

Paul had discovered this joy and strength in Christ. That is why he could say, “I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do everything through him who gives me strength.” (Phil 4:12)

May our knowledge and understanding of Christ and His love for us grow in the year that lies ahead as we allow Him to dwell in us and give us joy and strength to face and overcome whatever obstacle or challenge lies ahead.


If you enjoyed this article, please feel free to pass it along to your friends.

All that I ask is that you include the copyright and URL of my website.

© Lorna Kirstein