You know what I think? I think happiness is a trick. I think we’ve been bamboozled. Hoodwinked. Lied to. Made fools of. And we’re all falling for it.
It’s like that fake rabbit at the race track that greyhounds chase after and never catch. They run around and around in circles, faster and faster, in pursuit of the ultimate prize only to have the race just…end.
I don’t know about you, but I’m not a fan of running around in circles for no reason. But isn’t that what life is like sometimes? This world and the enemy has us sold on the idea of happiness for sale. The scheme that you can’t quite have enough of ANYTHING. If you work more hours, pay a little more, lose that pound, try a little harder, model your life after that Instagram account, and believe in yourself a little more, then you will finally be happy!
Take it from me. There ain’t no pot of gold at the end of that lie. I worked more hours and all I got was tired, less time with my family and friends, and a jerk-like attitude. I ate a little less and all I felt was hunger pangs and anger at the daydreams I was having about steaks and cakes – and more jerkish behavior. I tried a little harder and all I got was failure and feelings of inadequacy. I compared myself to others and all I felt was misguided jealousy and doubt about why God didn’t bless me like He blessed them. I paid a little more and all I got was more debt and those annoying envelopes in the mail as a ‘friendly’ reminder that bills were due.
Side note: Getting mail as an adult is so not as fun as it used to be. I used to be so excited to get mail growing up. Now mail just gets tossed on the counter to lay unopened out of fear. Because you know what it is. You KNOW. And it isn’t going to be a letter from your pen pal with hearts above the i’s in glitter pen. End side note.
My point is that in the pursuit of happiness, we start to rely more on ourselves and created things and less on the One who can bring us true joy. Because happiness is conditional and dependent. It depends on our feelings, the weather, the latest thing trending, comparisons, our love lives (or lack thereof)…and all of these things are fickle, at best. It is composed in Hallmark phrases, idealized in box office hits, squashed in the pages of best selling self-help books, and sold in pill form only to be destroyed by the next person, place, or thing that kills our vibe.
But joy – true joy – is not situational. And it does not depend on anything but Him. Because when our fulfillment comes from a never-changing, never-failing God, joy comes right along with that. And joy is just that. Fulfilling. It fills and satisfies the very core of our being that was designed by God to be a place where only He dwells. It overflows into the areas of our lives where we might be ‘unhappy.’
There’s a (pretty long but well worth the read) quote by CS Lewis that I adore and so beautifully and simply describes the differences between joy and happiness:
“Joy has indeed one characteristic in common with them (happiness and joy); the fact that anyone who has experienced it will want it again. Apart from that…it might also equally well be called a particular kind of unhappiness or grief. But then it is a kind we want. I doubt whether anyone who has tasted it would ever, if both were in his power, exchange it for all the pleasures in the world. But then joy is never in our power and pleasure often is.”
You see, true joy comes from finally surrendering to the fact that we are not in control and that our happiness is not the ultimate prize.
Is this whole surrendering thing easy? Heck no. For all you control freaks out there, letting go of anything – especially something important, like, I don’t know, your entire life – is an unfathomable feat. But like I said before, I’m not a fan of running in circles. And relying only on myself and trying to ‘produce happiness’ through the lens of this world was a never ending cycle of frustration (and jerkish behavior).
Does this mean I don’t work hard, eat healthy, have role models, or pay bills? Um, no. That would not end well. This does mean that I don’t look to my career to fulfill me, other people to complete me, or my financial situation to play puppet master to the strings of my life.
Does this mean I don’t ever get sad, feel unhappy, act like a jerk, or even doubt? Again, no. But when I do find my feelings are attempting to overshadow His glory, I find peace and comfort in the Creator, not the creation. Even in my darkest moments, I can look ahead, victorious, because all things are working for my good (Romans 8:28). And if I happen to be unhappy in that moment, that season, or even that year, I can rejoice knowing that God’s promises outweigh my present troubles (2 Corinthians 4:17).
Now, I know what some of you are thinking. You’ve heard the cliches and pretty phrases about joy before. Well, you don’t have to believe me. But you should believe that aching emptiness you feel despite the riches you’ve amassed, the success you’ve achieved, and likes you’ve collected on Facebook. I’ve felt it. And that ain’t joy. Heck, you can’t even pretend that it’s happiness.
But what would happen if you allowed God to fill that emptiness with His enduring love for a broken person; an everlasting peace that overwhelms every sadness; and an unrelenting grace that covers every flaw? That is joy. And it’s not for sale. It’s for the free-ski.
So don’t believe the hype, kids. Happiness ain’t all it’s cracked up to be.
Can anything ever separate us from Christ’s love? Does it mean he no longer loves us if we have trouble or calamity, or are persecuted, or hungry, or destitute, or in danger, or threatened with death? (As the Scriptures say, “For your sake we are killed every day; we are being slaughtered like sheep.”) No, despite all these things, overwhelming victory is ours through Christ, who loved us. And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord. – Romans 8:35-39