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The Myth of Happiness

May 12, 2015

“All I ever wanted was for you to be happy.”  Happy_minions

“Does he/she make you happy?”

“I just want my children to be happy.”

“Don’t worry. Be happy.”

“Can’t nothing, bring me down I said. Because I’m happy.”

I don’t know when it was that I started observing that the depth of joy in many people’s lives is described by the term happy.  For some reason that bugs me more than a little bit.  Don’t get me wrong I am just like the next person and I enjoy the pleasurable sense that being happy brings.  I am happy when my wife and I are laughing and just being together.  I am happy when I get to spend time with my grandchildren.  I am happy when I am having a good round of golf.  I am happy when I enjoy a really good steak.

But last week the check engine light on my van, not only went on, but it mocked me by flashing on and off with regularity.  I was not happy.  This past winter the furnace that heats the sanctuary of our church went out and I was not very happy.  The bill for new furnaces was over $13,000.00 and we had to set up for a service in the gym.  You guessed it I was not happy.

All of the above, both the positive and the negative have one thing in common.  They are all driven by circumstances.  In my mind that is the deal with happiness, it is circumstance driven.   And that, in my mind, is also the myth of happiness.  I do not have the power to fully make someone happy because I do not have the ability to control my own circumstances, not to mention those of another person.  I am discovering in my own life that happiness should not be the goal, but it is merely a byproduct of fortunate circumstances.

I have spent most of the last 30 years studying the scriptures and I have never found a place where God promises to make me happy in the way we typically use the term.   We find often the reminder to rejoice or even be happy if you will in the Lord.  I think that is the key.  It really isn’t whether we use the word joy or happiness; it is the object of our joy or our happiness.  When one’s happiness is based on one’s circumstances then it will be a fleeting reality.  It will ebb and flow.

On the flip side, when one’s joy is based on his/her relationship with Jesus Christ and a true belief that no matter what my circumstances, I am promised that nothing can separate me from the love of Jesus (Romans 8:31-39) then I have a quiet confidence.  A calm that buoys me when I face struggles and an anchor that keeps me grounded.  This is why as he sat under house arrest, the Apostle Paul could write to his friends in Philippi and say “Rejoice in the Lord always.  I will say it again: Rejoice!” (Philippians 4:4).  His circumstances did not impact the core reality in his soul that he was loved by God and living in obedience to God.  It is not that you or I can make each other happy; I am convinced that we can’t in a lasting way.  But we can choose to live in daily relationship with Jesus and experience the true meaning of happiness, which is wrapped up in the eternal love of God, that is greater than our circumstances.

 

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