Perhaps you’ve heard of the phrase “Gross Domestic Product” or GDP. It’s the marker economists use to measure the health of the economy–how many dollars worth of goods and services did the country produce over the span of a year? More dollars, higher GDP, healthier economy.
But how about GNH, “Gross National Happiness?” How do you measure that? If you’ve never heard of the term, here’s the background. In 1971 King Jigme Singye Wangchuk of Bhutan came up with the concept of measuring his nation’s health not by more dollars but by greater happiness. The tiny country of Bhutan, roughly half the size of Indiana and nestled between India and China, annually measures its citizens happiness based on nine domains: “psychological wellbeing, health, education, time use, cultural diversity and resilience, good governance, community vitality, ecological diversity and resilience, and living standards” (source). That’s GNH, in Bhutanese terms.
In Western culture, where everything – including happiness – tends to have a price tag, there’s probably a valid corrective in the idea that economic activity doesn’t translate directly to a healthy society. But there’s another corrective spoken to both cultures, spoken by One who can’t be reduced to a measurable statistic: “These words I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full” (John 15:11). To consumerist Westerners and happiness seeking Bhutanese, Jesus simultaneously confronts and invites: true happiness, true joy is found only in him – but all may come to him. Apart from him, all else, in the end, is empty.
And this same Lord has his people among the Bhutanese. The Joshua Project estimates currently only 0.3% of the population is Christian. Buddhism dominates the religious landscape. Proselytizing is illegal, and while Christians are not formally persecuted their status in Bhutanese culture is tenuous at best. And yet, for all that, a complete New Testament in the official language of Dzongkha exists. Which means the Bhutanese people can hear and read, in their own tongue, Jesus’ claims on them, “And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself” (John 12:32); or the song of the redeemed that will one day be sung in the Dzongkha language as well: “Worthy are you to take the scroll and to open its seals, for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation” (Revelation 5:9). This month, will you take
This month, will you take time to pray for the nation and people of Bhutan? Pray specifically:
- For God to strengthen the believers in Bhutan to remain faithful under suspicion or persecution and to be a witness for Christ: “Therefore let those who suffer according to God’s will entrust their souls to a faithful Creator while doing good” (1 Peter 4:19).
- Pray for open doors to share the gospel, both for Bhutanese believers and missionaries from outside. Jesus is “the true one, who has the key of David, who opens and no one will shut, who shuts and no one opens” (Revelation 3:7).
- Pray for the Bhutanese people to be dissatisfied with temporary, earthly happiness and instead to seek the joy and true happiness found only in Jesus: “And this is eternal life, that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent” (John 17:3).
Josh Blount is an associate pastor at Living Faith Church in Franklin, WV. He is a graduate of the Sovereign Grace Pastor’s College and currently pursuing an M.Div through Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. He and his wife Anna have one son, Elliot.
Photo credit: Göran Höglund
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