Why Aren’t We Happy?

What’s keeping us from being happy? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Recently, I was at a group where addiction was being talked about and alcohol was brought up. Why is it that some people will go and get the bottle knowing that it will only lead to suffering for them? Why do they keep doing it? The question could be asked of any of us. We do things that we know in the long run won’t bring us happiness and we don’t do things that we know will bring us happiness. Why?

Now I want to stress that in many ways, happiness can be fickle. What I am saying is that if one looks at what one has to be happy about in their life, that that will overpower what one has to be unhappy about. One can have both at the same time. I am not telling anyone to have a constant feeling, but more of a constant outlook.

So we all say we want to be happy, but perhaps that is the first thing we should question. Do we really want that? It’s not like we can push a button and immediately be happy. Something will have to change. Normally, it is not going to be our circumstances so much as our attitude towards life, but there are circumstances that will have to change sometimes.

What happens in the case of addiction? The problem is the person has taken a lesser good and cannot see that there is a greater good that awaits them, but that greater good can only be gained by dropping the lesser good. The good of sobriety is far greater than the good of being drunk by the bottle. (Keep in mind, I am not condemning all consumption of alcohol. I am condemning an unhealthy addiction to alcohol.) A person thinks the good of the feeling they get from pornography is something they don’t want to lose, not realizing that this is keeping them from a healthier and happier relationship with a true person of the opposite sex. A person might think it is good to be well-read and studied, but they don’t want to truly sacrifice all that time watching Netflix.

If you are not willing to make sacrifices for a greater good in your life, then you do not truly want that greater good. Any change in your life will require sacrifice of some sort. It might be time or possessions or a lifestyle, but it will require sacrifice. I am also not saying that it will be easy, but it is something that has to be done.

Another step we have to take is we have to be willing to be uncomfortable. We have to be able to step away from an area where we feel safe and be able to enter into an area where we might not feel safe yet in the hopes of our feeling safe. Now keep in mind I am not encouraging you to do anything reckless here. I am encouraging activities most of us know to be safe but others are fearful of.

For instance, in my own walk, I am terrified of being in water. As a child, the undertow introduced itself to me at the beach and I get terrified of water. My wife meanwhile loves the water and is a fish in it and it is my goal to somehow at least be competent in the water. What is safe is to stay on the edge and stay with my feet touching the ground. That is safe. That is comfortable, but I cannot be happy in the water if I stay safe. If I do not step out of my comfort zone, I will not be happy. In this case, it is worse. It will bring my wife great happiness when I step out of the comfort zone so I must have her happiness in mind as well.

Now of course, if this is something similar to what you face, I am not suggesting you do something drastic such as in my case just jumping in the deep end and hoping I learn. That would be stupid. For me it could involve classes at the Y. It would be a timely process, but it would still be something doable. As long as you are taking the steps that is what will matter. You take the steps wanting to reach that goal.

And yes, you must be willing to want it with all that you’ve got. No lighthearted effort will get you there. If anything, get angry about what has taken hold of your life and kept you from living it to the fullest. Whatever that is, that is your enemy and you must seek to destroy it.

Now if we remove safety, then we have to admit something else. We are not in control of our own lives. We cannot be living our lives on guard afraid of any change and expect to be happy. This is the point where I think being a Christian theist has its advantages. With this, whatever happens in my life, I can see it passes through the hands of God and He will use it for my benefit somehow. If I could truly grasp a passage like Romans 8, I wonder how much better off I’d be.

Keep in mind that if we are Christians, our lives are to be examples of joy. Paul could write about joy while in prison. It doesn’t mean we’re always going to be feeling great, but it does mean we will know deep down who is in charge and live accordingly. Frankly, I’ve said many time that the reason we often suffer so much is because we have a very poor theology. Good theology will lead to good living.

So today, I encourage you to really look at yourself and ask if you really want happiness. What are you willing to give for it? How much are you willing to pay? If the price is low, are you really wanting it at all?

In Christ,
Nick Peters

What Is Required For Happiness?

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.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Apostles’ Creed: And The Life Everlasting

What awaits those who trust in Christ? Let’s dive into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Death is something we often don’t really care for. It’s such a finality to matters. I have been to two funerals this year for instance. One was for an aunt who died. The other was for a neighbor who lived just down the street from us and whose death we were not at all expecting. My wife has lost her grandfather this year as well.

When someone dies, we are suddenly filled with grief if we knew the person well and cared for them. When I walk past my neighbor’s house for instance, I can know that in this lifetime, I will never see him out there tending to his garden and have him wave at me and have my wife and I talk to him about the plants in our garden.

Scripture gives us the promise of life everlasting as does the Apostles’ Creed, but here is another area where we have misunderstandings. This is often done at funerals. As I mentioned in an earlier post, too often, we have made it seem like the goal of Christianity is simply to get to Heaven. That’s a goal very much about us.

Yet the Bible is about what God is doing with His creation for His glory and part of it is redeeming the creation. It is not as if he says “Dang it. Looks like the devil screwed up that Garden of Eden plan. So much for that planet.” Too many Christians have this idea. This world is not our home supposedly. God did not make it to be our eternal dwelling.

Wherever that idea comes from, it is not Scripture. It is more a Platonic sort of idea of an otherworldly experience apart from this world. In fact, Scripture says the opposite. Heaven comes down to Earth in the book of Revelation. It is not the case that people go to Heaven. God comes to dwell with His people. His people do not go to a far off place where He is. In fact, if we are true believers of Scripture, we should realize God is here right now. We are just waiting for His presence to be more manifest and I would suggest the problem is not with Him, but it is with us. After all, it can never be with Him.

Part of that promise is not just going back to Eden, but going beyond Eden. This will be a place that is far better than Eden. This will be life everlasting and of a kind that will eternally satisfy us. Thankfully, it will not be like what we often see in the cartoons. For most of us, if Heaven was simply sitting on clouds and playing harps, most of us would wonder if we had instead gone to Hell. It is why some youth growing up have asked the question of if Heaven would be boring. With our descriptions of it, we have not given them much to be excited about.

Of course, the biggest excitement is that God is there and we interact with Jesus. Now if some of you don’t get excited as you should at that, could it be because we have not made the topic that exciting? We have turned God into some detached far off being that is not really interacting with our world, aside from as a friend of mine said yesterday, to perhaps send a hurricane to judge homosexuals and people attending casinos and I could add perhaps answering that prayer for a miracle and finding that parking space every now and then.

And as for Jesus, well we’ve made Jesus this nice approachable figure from our Sunday School lessons that doesn’t really challenge us which leads to an obvious question. Why would someone crucify this Jesus? For instance, as I read through Five Views on the Historical Jesus, I found Crossan’s essay quite interesting with the ending that Jesus would be seen like someone providing social renewal with a message of love. Okay. Perhaps He did. Here’s my problem. A Jesus like that is not a threat. At the worst, He’s an annoyance. There’s no reason to crucify Him.

Do we really think about Jesus? Do we think about who He is and why He came? For instance, last night I read Psalm 86 with the prayer in there of thanking God for saving them. Now isn’t this interesting? The knowledge of salvation and forgiveness before the cross? But on what basis? Because people were keeping the Law to show their faithfulness to God in response of His faithfulness to them.

Did Jesus really come into a world where the Jews were looking for a way of salvation? It doesn’t look like it. Most of them had a way that seemed to work quite well for them. Yet still He came to show them a new way. What a strange message this must have been. Instead of righteousness with God being found on the basis of the Law which came from Moses, it was found on the basis of this man who just showed up and did some miracles and spoke in these strange parables? Look at it this way, and you can understand why Jesus was not received as well by the leaders of His day. We must all honestly ask ourselves before we condemn them if we would do any better.

Then you can ask also how John the Baptist fit into this. Why did John the Baptist speak out against the actions of Herod? Was he just a political agitator? Or was he concerned about the righteousness of the people and people getting their hearts right in preparation? If he said nothing about the leader of the people openly disobeying what was righteous, then how could He be taken seriously?

These are the kinds of questions we need to be asking. Who was Jesus? What kind of world did He come into? What difference did He make in it? What difference does He make in it? What does He tell us about God? Remember, Jesus is the revelation of God. He is the one through whom we are to see and interpret the Father. To know Jesus is to know God.

If the prospect of eternity with the Trinity does not excite us, it is because we have not come to fully know them as they are, and indeed this certainly applies to my own self who often does not get excited enough. None of us will have that kind of excitement until we pass over into eternity as we are all still bound by our sinful natures.

The good part is that we will have all of eternity to discover the wonder that we have missed and the wonder that we were meant for. It will never be interrupted. It will never be painful. It will never be sorrowful. It will never be boring. This does not mean we will be passive. We will be incredibly active. We will be working in Heaven, but it will be worthwhile and enjoyable, unlike most of our work today where most of us can’t wait to get home from the evening shift.

To see the analogy, go back to the Garden of Eden. As David Lamb says in his book “God Behaving Badly”, man is placed in the garden and given a job and he is given what many men have called the greatest commandment God ever gave man. “Go forth and multiply.” As Lamb says, he is told to eat a lot of food and have a lot of sex. Now men, imagine going through CareerBuilder or a Monster.com and seeing a job description like this.

“I have a garden that I want a husband and wife to attend to for me. I will cover all of their expenses. I will handle their dental, health, and any other insurance coverage. Aside from one tree I choose, they may eat anything they grow in the garden that they want. I will make sure their clothing and living arrangements are provided for. I will make sure their children are provided for. Oh. One more thing. I also expect the husband and wife to have a lot of sex with each other in the garden. No credentials or skills in gardening needed. I will teach you all you need to know.”

Personally, if I saw a job application like that, I would be applying immediately. In fact, I would probably be reapplying to it every day.

It’s my suspicion that our work in Heaven will be jobs tailor made for us. I suspect someone like myself could be assigned to do research and teaching and I will have the best library of all with all the books ever written and I will get to do that research alongside people like the Apostle Paul and Thomas Aquinas and just think of the conversations we can have.

Also, I do fully believe that this will take place on this Earth. What all that entails for us I cannot say. I get suspicious of people who claim to give detailed accounts of what Heaven is like when Paul says in 2 Corinthians 12 that he could not speak of what He saw. Whatever it is, it is made for us to enjoy and it will be enjoyable because it is our place in God that we find. We find our total completion in Him when we get there.

As I write this, I can confess I do get a hint of that joy and that desire. To use the parallel given earlier, and every man can understand this, imagine being at work one day and it being tedious and boring and you find out on your break you have a voicemail from your wife. You turn it on to listen still kind of in a moping mood and hear something like this.

“Hey honey. I just wanted to let you know it’s been really lonely here and I’ve been thinking about you a lot and how much I appreciate what you do. I sent the children over to grandma and grandpa’s to spend the night with them. I am as we speak fixing your favorite dinner right now and we’ll share it together when we get home and then, we can go to the bedroom together. I went out and got a new outfit today and I think you’ll really enjoy it. I can’t wait to see you when you get home and I hope you can’t wait to really see me.”

I can assure you if I was that husband, my mood would have gone straight up for the rest of the day and I could not wait to get home in the evening. Some of you women might be thinking “Won’t my husband be worried about how much the outfit cost?” I can assure you that will be one of the last things on his mind. In fact, the desire that he has is in fact enjoyable in itself. Anything he goes through for the rest of the day will be worth it in comparison to the joy that he knows awaits him when he gets home.

This is why the Bible compares things so often to a marriage. We are awaiting the full consummation of what is to come. Remember also we are the bride. We are the ones that will have the life of God given to us. What you see happening in a marriage is meant to be a picture of what happens between Christ and the church. This is in fact why we must take marriage seriously as Christians and must take sex sacredly as Christians. To do anything less is to dishonor God.

Keep the faith Christian, and someday, you will be in the manifest presence of God celebrating His great love and never again to be absent or apart from it.

In Christ,

Nick Peters