Chasing Happiness

Published June 9, 2014 by joypatton

Happy Face “Mrs. Patton, we want to make you happy,” my students explained when we were talking about the requirements for their upcoming writing assignment.

“But my happiness is completely irrelevant,” I said.  I didn’t want my students to write to make me happy.  I wanted them to write to make themselves happy.  I wanted them to take pride in their words, to hear their own voice through their writing.

“But don’t you want to be happy?” they asked.  “Aren’t you a Christian?  Isn’t that the point?  Aren’t you supposed to be happy all the time?”

My heart sank.  This was what they have been told that Christianity is about.  They have been led to believe that the point of Christianity was to be happy all the time about everything.  They have been sorely misled, and sometimes I wonder if I have too.  I spend a lot of time chasing happiness.

In theory, my happiness is just as irrelevant to my faith as it is to their writing.  To me happiness is such a fleeting thing that is makes a poor goal.  For example, most mornings I’m happily sitting at the table quietly drinking my tea when the girls start arguing about who’s turn it is to pick out a show and asking me to bring them their breakfast one item at a time.  Suddenly I’m not so happy.  Happiness can’t be measured; it can’t be obtained. Just when you think you have it, something changes.  Happiness is just a happy by-product of being where you are.  I’ve found it is too fleeting to be a final destination.

If the goal of my Christian life is to make me happy, then I’ve reduced my relationship with God to the same level as my relationship with a vending machine that will spit out my favorite candy bar.  Then when God fails to do what I think he should when I think he should, I become a spoiled, tantrum-throwing child because he didn’t make me happy.  And once again that happy feeling I’m chasing is gone.  But if God’s main goal was my happiness and he gave me everything I needed for an easy and trouble-free life, he would not be a good father. He would have quite a mess on his hands trying to give all of us everything we wanted to make us happy.

Rather the simple goal of the Christian life is to follow.  What God wants from me is not robot obedience or tear-filled repentance.  Both are good, but ultimately he wants my trust.  He wants to have my heart.  He wants me to depend on him and trust him alone in every situation. This does not always lead to happiness. Mostly it leads to a lot of dying to self and giving up what I want.  Not the definition of happiness, but it is a path that leads to much deeper joy, peace and rest.  I’m reminded of this joyful song about dying to self called “Lay Me Down” on Rush of Fools’ newest album.  You can hear it here or read about a post I previously wrote about this song.

When I find myself chasing happiness, my own or other people’s, I must remember that happiness is irrelevant.  The only person I must please is my heavenly Father. When my only goal is to make God happy, everything else will fall into place.  And in those fleeting moments of happiness, I’m grateful to the Father who gives his children good things.  Even in the moments of my own unhappiness or the unhappiness and displeasure of those around me, I can feel the pleasure of the Father.  As long as he is happy, I’m happy.

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