Happiness. Such an integral part of the American dream. So much so, that its in our Constitution. It is equated with life and freedom. The pursuit of it is all-consuming. It is fitting that happiness is poetically linked with life because it takes a lifetime of work to maintain the state of “being happy.”
Though happiness is a part of the American dream, is it a part of God’s dream for us? Where in the Bible does he promise us a life full of happiness? Is that what we even want?
God asked me to take a big step this past year. He asked me to leave my comfortable little school where I had been teaching the same subject in the same classroom for 3 years. He brought me to a much bigger school with many more challenges. Extra duties, new people and relationships, and a higher student to teacher ratio. I was nervous, but eager and ready to begin. Whatever you need, God! I’m all yours. And then I felt Him whisper something to me before I even began my first day… This isn’t going to be easy.
I knew before I began that there would be some challenges in my new role, and there were (even though there was some really great stuff, too and I do love my new school), but what I didn’t realize is that as always God was using this time of transition to help me understand an important truth. The fact that my happiness is not His number one concern after all. That maybe having some hard work ahead of you is a good thing.
Just like every other emotion, happiness is deceiving. Happiness means that we are taking pleasure in something we are experiencing. It is connected to the external happenings around us. It is temporary. It is fleeting. And just like a habit forming drug, it is governed by the law of diminishing returns. As soon as the feeling is gone, we want it more and more, yet it never truly fulfills.
We can be happy one minute then sad the next. Or mad, or silly, or jealous, or frustrated, or any other circumstantial emotion. Rather then being constantly tossed around by the external, lets look inward. Let’s set our path in tune with the state of being that God does want us to pursue and continually experience.
“My brothers and sisters, when you have many kinds of troubles consider it joy.” James 1:2
“But the spirit produces the fruit of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.” Galatians 5:22 (Where ya at, happiness?)
“Be joyful because you have hope. Be patient when trouble comes, and pray at all times.” Romans 12:12
“We also have joy with our troubles, because we know that these troubles produce patience.” Romans 5:3
“Be full of joy in the Lord always. I will say again, be full of joy. Philippians 4:4
“Hannah prayed: The Lord has filled my heart with joy; I feel very strong in the Lord. I can laugh at my enemies; I am glad because you have helped me!” 1 Samuel 2:1
As you notice from the verses referenced above, we can experience joy on top of every other emotion. It is not a fleeting feeling, but a state of being. Keeping our hearts in tune and in line with the will of the One who created them. When we are serving Him, we might find ourselves in some tough situations. We may be uncomfortable, vulnerable, exhausted, discouraged but in all of those things we can still have joy as we remember that this work is kingdom work and worth all of the sweat and tears we may experience along the way.
God is not interested in aiding us with our own pursuit of happiness, but He is in the business of offering us a life full of joy simply by serving Him. I don’t mind being challenged by my circumstances because it keeps me awake. It keeps me leaning on Him, fighting for the good, and focused on the pursuit. The pursuit of joy.