“and the pursuit of happiness.”

Apparently pursuing happiness is a common phenomenon among people. You hear phrases often that say “do what makes you happy,” and the like. We pursue certain jobs, eat certain food, drink certain drinks, date certain people, and live certain lives that make us happy and the world tells us that is our purpose… to be happy.

This isn’t another one of those posts about the secret to a joyful life or defining happiness and joy differently and the dependence on emotion that the definition takes… no really, its just an honest consideration. In the Christian world, there’s a huge stigma against living for happiness, people often comment on how “the heart is deceitful above all else,” and we should seek joy and not happiness. God guarantees joy if we obey his commands (John 15:10-12), but not happy emotionalism. I went to a Christian concert the other day where someone defined joy and the abundant life as sadness too. Whether that’s accurate or not, the cry I hear of Christian souls is “This world is actually quite depressing and because I’m impacted by that I feel guilty that I’m not beaming with joy all the time.” But if you define joy, it really is just pleasure and happiness. Sounds like an emotional feeling to me. I don’t think we need to feel necessarily guilty that we experience joylessness, but I’ve realized I don’t particularly feel differently from that very often.

The truth of the matter is, whatever it means, I don’t “feel happy” or really that joyful. When I pet kittens I do, but I haven’t done that in a while. Maybe you can relate, but the world gets me down. There’s a lot of crap that happens here, relationships are always a struggle, there’s always a continual battle for loving my family and fighting bitterness, I’m fighting for courage to share the gospel with people, and fighting not to give into sin’s temptation. This is a weary land. The call I hear from Jesus is, “Come all you who are weary and heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11:28)

So how come I’m not living for happiness? As I think about that, I reflect on my experience being alive so far and consider all the facets of my decision making. I can honestly say that “my happiness” isn’t something I’ve really ever considered so I really don’t understand the mindset of people who live to do whatever makes them happy. Is it the way I grew up? I wonder. Living on farm you learned to do things whether you liked them or not, for survival, but life never felt good. I kind of accepted that and I think it’s colored my view on life. Life is hard, so don’t expect joy. And the call I hear from the bible is to “seek peace and pursue it.” (Psalm 34:14) not happiness.

So I’m not pursuing happiness like the world suggests. Great! I’ve saved myself a lot of trouble, but yet, why this discontentment? Why this joylessness? Why do I so often feel like life on earth here is a means to an end?

I don’t have a lot of answers to those questions. Actually, I don’t really have any. I suppose the soul is a vast and deep water which only God can navigate, but I’d love to hear anyone else’s thoughts about having joy in a, what seems like most of the time, a joyless place. I have hope in the next life, I’m so excited for eternity with God, but sometimes it’s really just hard to get out of bed in the morning and face the day. Maybe you will read this and have some wisdom to share, or maybe God’s got some good things to teach me in the next year. Stay tuned for more conclusions.

Psalm 27:13-14 “I am confident of this, that I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of living. Wait on the Lord, be strong, and wait on the Lord.” Is this a promise I can take to mean this life, or does it really just refer to heaven… I just don’t know, but people keep sharing it with me so it must mean something. It must mean something.


2 thoughts on ““and the pursuit of happiness.”

  1. fromtheendsoftheearth April 30, 2015 / 9:13 AM

    I’ve found a lot of freedom in this realization: While it’s true that our happiness is not God’s ultimate aim for our life, the implication of that fact isn’t that he’s opposed to happiness. Rather, the implication is that our happiness shouldn’t be our ultimate aim, either. This means we can enjoy happiness if/when that’s what God gives us, or we can endure suffering if/when that’s what God gives us. The real joy is in being aligned with him in our perspective of our lives, where ultimate aims are ultimate aims, and subordinate aims are subordinate aims. Not sure if that makes sense, but it’s been helpful to me…

    Also, I think happiness as an ultimate aim in life is self-defeating, since as soon as we take that view, our inevitable death makes it impossible to achieve.

    • teresarose April 30, 2015 / 6:42 PM

      Hey Paul! Thanks for reading and sharing! And that makes a lot of sense. Would it line up to say that I shouldn’t feel guilty about not being happy because maybe it is season of trial and if it were a season of joy than God would provide joy? Is there a conflict in the messages that God gives us joy and the other message that we should choose to be joyful in our circumstances? I hear the latter a lot. Paul Johnson’s message a couple Sunday’s ago claimed that guilt and shame steal our joy, but as I think about that, maybe that’s true, but sometimes earthquakes happen and it’s difficult to have joy, but it’s not because I feel guilt or shame, it’s because it sucks. Would it be better then, to accept my joylessness and trust God to provide? Or is better to assume that my lack of joy comes from a misplaced hope in subordinate aims? If you don’t have answers, that’s ok, but I appreciate your dialog! Maybe that’s up to me to differentiate.

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