“Are you happy?”: Dr Strange and the search for happiness through the multiverse

Warning: This article contains major spoilers.

by Christine Leow // May 10, 2022, 2:07 pm

Screenshot 2022-05-10 at 12.15.51 PM

The 28th film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe centres around the perennial search for happiness, giving us pause to ask: "Am I happy?" Screengrab from the official trailer of Dr Strange In The Multiverse of Madness.

“Are you happy?”

At the heart of the mind-bending storyline and cinematic special effects is this question Dr Strange In The Multiverse of Madness asks and attempts to answer.

As the 28th film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) begins, Dr Stephen Strange is asked this defining question by the love of his life in every universe, Dr Christine Palmer, at her wedding to another man, no less.

The question will go on to echo throughout the movie, whether asked aloud or woven into the fabric of the story.

How do I find happiness?

Is happiness found in romantic love?

Christine thinks so, at least in one of the universes. When asked in return by Dr Strange if she was happy, she replies, glowing: “I am. I really, really am.” The scene of her held close in a dip during her first dance with her new husband is still fresh in the minds of the viewers.

Is happiness found in having children?

Wanda Maximoff in her evil incarnation as Scarlet Witch certainly thinks so. The whole movie centres around her desire to fill the ache in her soul with maternal love at all cost, even if means stealing the sons of a Wanda from an alternate universe.

Is happiness found in guilt absolved?

America Chavez, the only magic wielder in the movie who has the power to travel across universes, hopes so.

She is an orphan who blames herself for the disappearance of her parents. At a shop in the Earth-838 universe that allows customers to relive their memories, it is revealed that young America first opened a portal to another universe when she was startled by a bee. Her parents were sucked into the alternate universe never to be seen again, leaving her riddled with guilt for killing them.   

Is happiness found in fulfilling a worthy mission?

Wong doesn’t think so. At the end of the movie, Dr Strange asks him: “Are you happy?”

To this, Wong muses that he had thought that he would have been happier, having saved the universes from destruction. Instead, he wonders if the Wongs in the other universes might be happier than he.

The search for happiness is a timeless and universal one. But we don’t have to look very far to find the answer.

1. God created us to be happy

Hands up if you have ever thought that God can sometimes (or many times) be a tad too strict or, at the very least, a party-pooper. That He is somehow a list of do’s and don’ts, demanding our Sundays, our 10% tithe and our unquestioning loyalty. That He is a taker.

God did not create us for misery or to deny us. He created us for happiness, to give to us.

It’s a narrative that has somehow gained much traction but is as false as it is damaging.

The truth is that God is a giver. He created us to give to us. The first thing He does when He creates man is to give him these blessings (Genesis 1:28):

  • Procreative abilities – “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth.”
  • Power – “subdue it. Rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves on the ground.”
  • Provisions – “I give you every seed-bearing plant on the face of the whole earth and every tree that has fruit with seed in it.”

Jesus would reiterate this deep desire to give for our good when He declares: “I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” (John 10:10).

God did not create us for misery or to deny us. He created us for happiness, to give to us.

2. Happiness is found in a relationship with God

Because God is the source of that happiness, there can be no happiness apart from Him. We can only be happy when we are in a relationship with God.

King Solomon tried it all in his search for happiness. Yet, at the end of it all, he calls it “meaningless”. 

The psalmist sums it up well when he writes: “Happy are the people whose God is the Lord (Psalm 144:15).”

Every other way we go about it – finding love, acquiring wealth, wielding power, collecting accolades, possessing great beauty, accumulating deep knowledge, avoiding pain – will only come to naught.

Listen to the wisest man of his time (1 Kings 4:29-34) King Solomon. His wisdom was not only without peer, it was without measure. He tried it all in his search for happiness – gave in to all his desires, indulged in every pleasure, busied himself with much work. Yet, at the end of it all, he calls it “meaningless, a chasing after the wind” (Ecclesiastes 2:10-11).

3. Happiness is enjoyed in the likeness of Him

But beyond being with God, happiness is found in being like God.

As a child, I often wondered what God was like. I used to think of Him as a giant in the sky with a generous white beard and a flowing white robe, a sort of Santa Claus meets the cartoon version of Moses. Like the physical being that I am, I concentrated on what God was like physically.

Happiness happens from the inside out.

The Apostle John tells us what God is truly like. He is love (1 John 4:16). In case you were wondering what love is like, the Apostle Paul completes the picture in 1 Corinthians 13:4-7.

God created us to be like that, to be “in His image” (Genesis 1:26). Sin derailed this. But Jesus’ death and resurrection restored that.

John Wesley, the leader of the Methodist movement, often preached that happiness is holiness. Happiness and holiness are interwoven. When we are set apart for God in a righteous relationship with Him, we can have the fruit of the Holy Spirit.

Think about it – love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control (Galatians 5:22-23). Isn’t this the very definition of happiness? Wouldn’t you be happy if you possessed all these?

Here’s the other thing: Happiness happens from the inside out. We, in our foolishness, try to find it from the outside in. From things, people and circumstances around us.

4. Happiness is living our God-given purpose

Once, when I was trying to replace the batteries of a toy, I found myself in need of a screwdriver. Too lazy to search the house for a toolbox, I reached for a pair of scissors instead. Suffice to say, I didn’t manage to loosen the screws of the battery compartment. I did, instead, put several scratches on the screw head and on my right thigh.

Our search for happiness is God-intended.

When we don’t use things for their right purposes, we come to grief. When we don’t live out our true purpose, we cannot be happy. 

Isaiah tells us what that true purpose is (Isaiah 43:21) – that we are formed for God that we may proclaim His praise. Paul confirms that – we are God’s workmanship created “for good works which God prepared beforehand” (Ephesians 2:10).

Our search for happiness is natural. In fact, our search for happiness is God-intended. We simply need to search in the right direction.

Are you happy?


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About the author

Christine Leow

Christine believes there is always a story waiting to be told, which led to a career in MediaCorp News. Her idea of a perfect day involves a big mug of tea, a bigger muffin and a good book.