The Trouble with Happiness (a PINK Tuesday Post)

‘If you’re happy and you know it, clap your hands!’

‘Shiny, happy people holding hands.’

‘Don’t worry, be happy.’

Sound familiar? A quick Google search brings up more than 100 songs with the word ‘happy’ in the title, but I have to wonder how many of us would use the word to describe the day we just had. Or the month. Or the decade.

It seems like everyone is striving for this thing called ‘happiness.’ Problem is, no one really knows exactly what it is or how to go about getting some for ourselves. We have an idea – that this thing, or this person, or this situation will make us ‘happy’ – but apparently our expectations are unrealistic and, ultimately, unrealized. I say it’s apparent, because statistics tell us that 1 in 10 Americans are currently taking an antidepressant.

If 10% of people in our country find happiness so elusive that they rely on medication in order to cope, I’ve got questions. Questions like:

What would make us happy – really? Are we mistaking happiness for the thrill of something new, only to find that once the rush of adrenaline is gone, we’re miserable and needy all over again?

Is happiness a reasonable goal? Are we somehow entitled to reaching this elusive state? Are some of us more able to reach a state of ‘happy,’ or more deserving of happiness than others?

What if our idea of happiness doesn’t even EXIST? Have we dreamed the impossible dream, only to find smoke and mirrors and a little pill that just might take the edge off of our inevitable disappointment?

I’m not really a conspiracy theorist, but I believe we’ve been set up. We’ve been set up to fail, because the world’s version of happiness is a lie. We are lied to every time we turn the television on. We are lied to every time we open up a magazine. We are lied to when we take that drink or buy that house or lease that car, because none of these things is able to make us happy.

The world says, ‘happiness is being thin.’ Tell that to the mother whose child is being treated for anorexia.

The world says, ‘happiness is being rich.’ Tell that to the millionaires whose kids would rather be anywhere, with anyone other than them.

The world says, ‘happiness is being in love.’ Tell that to a young mother when her child’s father doesn’t come home tonight – again.

I have a feeling that the trouble with happiness is that we think we know what happiness is – and we are wrong.

Jesus talks about happiness in Matthew chapter 5. You may not have heard these words spoken quite this way before:

“Happy are those who know they are spiritually poor; the Kingdom of heaven belongs to them! Happy are those who mourn; God will comfort them! Happy are those who are humble; they will receive what God has promised! Happy are those whose greatest desire is to do what God requires; God will satisfy them fully! Happy are those who are merciful to others; God will be merciful to them! Happy are the pure in heart; they will see God! Happy are those who work for peace; God will call them his children! Happy are those who are persecuted because they do what God requires; the Kingdom of heaven belongs to them! Happy are you when people insult you and persecute you and tell all kinds of evil lies against you because you are my followers. Be happy and glad, for a great reward is kept for you in heaven.” Matthew 5:3-12 (The Good News Translation)

I don’t know how we got our modern-day ideas about where happiness comes from! According to Jesus, the keys to happiness are to:

  • Be willing to admit we don’t have it all together
  • Be transparent and let our grief out of the bag
  • Be realistic about who we are and what we can (and cannot) do
  • Be passionate about the things that GOD is passionate about
  • Be loving and kind, innocent and earnest
  • Be an advocate for others – ALL others
  • Be put in places among people who don’t like what we stand for and aren’t afraid to let us know it.

Wow! And we thought that if we drove a new car and wore the $60 jeans and bought the newest iPhone that we’d be happy!

When I look through my contact list, it’s pretty obvious that the people in my life have every reason (by Jesus’ definition) to be HAPPY. We have messy lives. We make terrible mistakes, even though we try so hard to get it right. We are close enough to tears on most days that we keep tissue in our purses. The list of what we can’t seem to get done is almost always longer than the list of what we can do. We’re passionate, all right, but not necessarily about God. We get mad, we act badly. We value our street smarts more with each heart-wrenching edition of the evening news. We’re afraid of those who aren’t like us, so it’s easy to hole up in safe places and keep a low profile. We want everyone to like us.

And it is no amazing wonder that WE AREN’T HAPPY.

What if we chose today to look at happiness from Jesus’ perspective?

What if we really believed that His way is the BEST WAY for us to live?

What if we allowed the light of Truth to shine into our darkness, exposing the lies we’ve bought into for all of these long, painful years?

Psalm 34 paints a beautiful picture of these what-ifs in our world…

“If things aren’t going well, hear this and be happy: Join me in spreading the news; together let’s get the word out. God met me more than halfway, he freed me from my anxious fears.” Psalm 34:2b-4 (The Message)

God met me.

MORE THAN halfway.

And He set me free!

From my anxiety and fear.

How can we hear this testimony and NOT be happy?!

On this PINK Tuesday, JOIN ME in spreading the news! TOGETHER, as sisters in Christ and daughters of the King, we CAN get the Word out!

Glory!

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