Do we have what we need to be happy? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.
We could say that happiness is a modern fixation in some ways. If we just say it like that, we would be wrong. Aristotle said that happiness was what we were all seeking. What is different is what was meant by happiness. For Aristotle, it largely consisted of your reputation and how you were seen by others. Aristotle did not believe in an afterlife and yet said the happiness of a person could be changed after they died. Why? You could have descendants that are horrible people and ruin your reputation. This is a happiness that is really based on the way others perceive you and if you’re spoken well of in society.
Fast forward about 2,300-2,400 years.
Today, we have the self-esteem movement. You have to feel good in yourself. You have to be able to look at yourself and think you are a good person. We are all raised being taught that we are special and we have this idea that life should work out a certain way for us. Note also that the emphasis is on how we feel. How we feel is really one of the most fluid and changing things about us, and yet we base so much on it. You can go from feeling miserable to feeling happy very quickly and vice-versa. We often say that we should not care what other people think about us, but in reality, we all care, and to some extent we should.
Now if we’re talking about that stranger on the internet who doesn’t know you from Adam and makes one statement to you, yeah. You might not want to take that too seriously. If we’re talking about people who are close to you, yeah. You might want to take that seriously. Of course, that doesn’t mean that these people are always right, but you should heed them more. It’s one reason I’ve surrounded myself with some people who I know will shoot me straight and when they say something, I work to take what they say seriously. Number one of course is that if my wife says something to me about me, I try to take it seriously.
To get back to self-esteem again, if what we are going to do is to look at how we feel at the time to determine our happiness, we’re going to be in trouble. Now there is nothing wrong with feeling happy, just as there is nothing wrong with feeling love. There is also at times nothing wrong with feeling sorrow. If there are times that we do not feel sorrow, we have to ask if there is something wrong with us.
In fact, I needed to take a little break at this point so I went to scroll Facebook some and saw a news story about a reporter and a photographer who were in a live news broadcast when shots rang out. The story does not end well. Both of them were killed. I saw their pictures up there and a message that they are loved. You know what? That leaves me with sorrow. These people were robbed from their families and other loved ones through no fault of their own. This day will be a tragedy for many people until the day that they die. I have sorrow there and I rightly should. Unfortunately, most likely I’ll just have sorrow but won’t do much about it to help, although perhaps just writing this can raise awareness.
So yes, we should feel sorrow at times, but we can’t always control that we’ll feel happy. If our feelings were so under our control, we would just make ourselves feel happy. What is more under control is our thinking and rarely do we do anything with that. Our feelings should follow our thoughts. Usually it’s the other way around. As long as we do that, we are always living in reactionary mode. What do we do when the feelings are too intense? At times, just let them run their course. If you encounter someone who has lost a loved one to death recently, don’t try to reason them out of their feeling. They should feel it now. Let them cry it out of themselves or whatever they need to do since people grieve in different ways. Of course, they should not be allowed any self-harm of any sort, but let them just feel.
Now when we’re ready to think about these matters, let’s start thinking about that happiness. As Christians, we should take this extremely seriously. We are supposed to bring a message to the world that we in fact call “Good news.” Is it really good? Do we really believe it to be good? What do we need to be happy? There are many things that we want, but what is a necessity? What is it that without this thing, we absolutely cannot be happy.
Let me start with my own self as an example. When it comes to loves in my life outside of Christ, my wife comes to mind first. Do I love her? Absolutely. Do I want to grow old with her? You bet. Does she make me happy? Yep. However, I have to ask “Is my wife absolutely necessary for my happiness?” No. She’s not. If I say she is, I’ve in fact made her an idol. In fact, she and I have talked about this. We’ve talked about people who say Heaven would not be Heaven unless their spouse was there with them. There’s no problem in wanting them there with you. You should. What the problem is is in making them a necessity.
How about knowledge and books? Yeah. I really enjoy what I do with apologetics. I would never want in my old age to lose my thinking capacity. I remember telling my father-in-law that I figure in our position, we never retire. We could never stop doing apologetics. It’s just what we love. Indeed it is, but is it necessary for our happiness? No. After all, when we’re around the throne of Jesus in eternity, we will not be debating with atheists I think on apologetics. We will not have room for doubt. Now there will still be knowledge and learning, but knowledge for the sake of knowledge is not what we need.
How about family and friends? These are great, but they fall under the same rubric as the spouse. You should celebrate all the ones that you have, but you must realize that your happiness cannot be dependent on them. To do so is still idolatry.
So what is the one foundation whereby a man can rest and have happiness? It would need to be something that can last, let’s go with eternal. Something that is consistent. This would be something that would not change. It would need to be something without limits because all other joys we have in this life get exhausted after awhile. What could that be? Only one fits the bill. God.
And since God is best revealed in Jesus, Jesus is essential to that. We have the whole of the blessed Trinity to keep us happy and if we cannot find happiness in God, we will not find it anywhere else. There is no other place that can give that kind of happiness. We can find all manner of little joys to keep us going from time to time, but nothing that will truly last. We will be wandering without a foundation.
So if we have that happiness, what do we do with everything else? We celebrate it. Your spouse is not necessary for your happiness, but God gave them to you. Celebrate them. Your passions and interests are not necessary, but celebrate them. Your family and friends are not necessary, but God gave them. Celebrate them. This gets us into thankfulness again. Be thankful realizing that every good thing in your life is a sign of the grace of God.
What happens when suffering comes? It’s okay to mourn. Just don’t stay there. Realize even your mourning and sorrow is to be different. When we lose a loved one to death, we mourn, but we do keep in mind the resurrection. When suffering comes in our life, we have sorrow, but we realize God is in control of all and that He is working all for our good. We place ourselves and our future not in our hands but in the hands of God. We look to Him and we can even be angry with Him and say we don’t understand what is going on and why it is allowed to happen, but that we are going to trust Him.
Happiness is what we all want, and it will not come easy. We will have to work at it. We will have to continually die to old ways of thinking and come back with new ways of thinking if we’re going to find the joy that we want. Joy must be worked for. It is given from God, but it is given to those who will receive it. Our God is working to make us holy and not happy in the worldly sense. If we are holy, we will have the true happiness we want.
So today, celebrate all that you have that is not necessary for your happiness as a gift, and when you think of what is most needed for your happiness, cling to that. Hold tight to it fiercely and don’t let it go. Let it show in your own life. You will not tell people the Good News well if they have no reason to think that you really show it.