If you took your first breath in the 80s or early 90s, like me, you probably grew up on a steady diet of Saturday morning cartoons and after-school specials sprinkled with holiday-themed appearances by Charlie Brown and his crew. (Let us pause for a moment of nostalgia, shall we?) And, no matter the season, you were guaranteed one scenario: Charlie Brown, Lucy, and a football. How does the saying go: “Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.”? Apparently Charlie didn’t get the memo. Poor kid just kept trying and falling flat on his back. This is not a lesson on perseverance as much as it is Exhibit A on the unattainable.
I recently read a short story in a magazine about a person who decided to make the very permanent transition from “she” to “he” and move 2000 miles away to start a new life where no one would know their backstory. And while this was not the point of the story at all, one single sentence jumped off the page as if surrounded my a marquee. They said they did all this, and yet “I was still not happy.” (And no, this story was not about Bruce/Caitlyn Jenner – though I am sure that story will come to a similar befuddlement.)
We pursue “happy” with everything within us like it is something we can actually attain. Like a drug, we chase “happy” as a way of life. But I mean, come on, who doesn’t want to be happy? If asked, most parents will instinctively say, “I just want my kids to be happy.” My 6-year-old has somehow decided to write into my job description that, above all else, I must make them happy. I’m sorry – I didn’t realize I was a circus clown! Sorry kid, not happening. You might as well let that one go.
But how many of us take our “wish list” and transfer that to an “I’d be happy if…” list. I’d be happy if: I lost 10 pounds, got a new car, got married, had kids, had a bigger house, ETC! Seriously, has any of those things ever made anyone happy for the rest of their lives?? Fairy tales tell us that the princess marries the prince and they live “happily ever after.” Spoiler alert: they lie! Please understand, all of those things are good things and we can be happy in them, but we can’t define our happy by them.
We become enslaved to sin when we begin to believe that going just a little further, pushing the envelope just a smidgen, crossing the line with just our toes will be the thing that makes us forever happy. Then we can breathe a sigh of relief knowing that we have everything we could ever want. Is it ever enough? Will there ever not be want in us? Satan uses our propensity towards self-worship to stir in us discontent. Like a carrot on a stick he dangles happiness in the form of our most vulnerable weaknesses in our face. “You would be happy if you just: were thinner, were busier, had more stuff, were the other gender, had an affair…” He is the “father of lies” (John 8:44) and this is the only play he knows! In Genesis 3, he makes Eve doubt God’s goodness by telling her that God is essentially withholding “happy” from her. “For God knows that when you eat of it [the fruit of the forbidden tree] your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” (Gen 3:5) It is like he is saying, “hey, if you think being a person is cool, you should try being God! Then you would really be happy!” Of course, Satan himself had already tried to become God, and look how well that worked out for him.
Ecclesiastes is a book basically about a guy, King Solomon, who throws himself full-boar into pursuing anything and everything that could possibly make him happy. And yet several times he proclaims that it is all “vanity,” “meaningless,” and like “striving after the wind.” Contrast that to Paul, who says, “I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content.” (Phil 4:11)
Content, though admittedly less exhilarating than happy, is what we should be striving for. We can be content even when we are not happy – even when life truly sucks and the fluff hits the fan. Job was a man in the Bible who lived through unimaginable pain, and yet he was content in his God. “The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.” (Job 1:21) As believers, our contentment is not based on our circumstances, but on the steadfast faithfulness of God. (Malachi 3:6, James 1:17)
While God, in His grace, has granted and allowed so much happiness in our lives, He is much more interested in our being holy, than happy. (1 Peter 1:14-16) Happiness is momentary and fleeting; holiness reaps eternal pleasure and reward. Please, dear friend, don’t waste your life chasing “happy” because it is simply not attainable. It is like a roller coaster with ups and downs based on our circumstances – and I don’t know about you, but I certainly don’t need that drama in my life! Instead, with all that you are, chase the God who is already chasing after you! Contentment in Him will see you through to the end.
Have a happy day friends! 😉