What This 75-year Harvard Study Can Tell Us About God's True Design for Happiness


What's the secret to living a happy life? That's the one question that one of the longest standing social research called the Harvard Grant Study set out to answer by following 268 Harvard undergraduate men coming from different backgrounds and different walks. The study lasted for 75 years total, starting in 1938.

Harvard psychiatrist and leader of the study from 1972 to 2004 George Vaillant published the findings of the research that sheds light on human behavior. It also reveals God's true design for happiness—although I'm not so sure if the study ever meant to do that.

Here are some of the results that are so closely knit to God's principles:

1. The Greatest of These Is Love

Dr. Vaillant shares that one of the two pillars of happiness is love, the other being "finding a way of coping with life that does not push love away."

So much of what we search for has to do with finding a love that lasts. It's no accident that 1 Corinthians 13:13 also tells us, "So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love."

In our search for love, it's difficult to find any love that matches to the endless love of Christ. God is the only one capable of loving us unconditionally and in the magnitude that He loves us. He loves us so much that He gave His only son for us all.

2. Meaningful Relationships Matter Most

The greatest command God gives us is to love Him with all our heart, soul, mind and strength, and to love our others as ourselves. (Matthew 22:36-40)

Another way to say that really is to build our relationship with God and with others.

God is a God of relationships and seeks to reconcile first our relationship with Him and in the process reconcile us to others.

The Harvard Grant Study affirms this by sharing that meaningful relationships—not the disposable ones—are the ones that bring us most happiness and joy. We find true meaning and happiness in life-long relationships that seek to love and serve others.

3. Money Isn't the Ultimate Answer

Another aspect of the study also goes to show how emotional well-being is not directly proportional to increases in personal income. The world wants you to believe that having more money and possessions is what would make you happy.

But studies show that it's just not the case. Instead, what brings true happiness is having a level of contentment in what you do and have.

Hebrews 13:5 hits the same note when it tells us, "Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for he has said, 'I will never leave you nor forsake you.'"