Monday, August 9, 2010

Happiness! What exactly is it anyway?

Many of us, including myself, have spent a lifetime searching for happiness. We pursue it in things like affluence, titles, family, fame, sex, love, friends, and so much more yet somehow we still never seem to be satisfied. We always want more because we are just not as happy as we thought we would be once we have attained those things. I know that we as women tend to search for happiness in things like love and the ability of another to fulfill us. We also seek happiness by extending ourselves in whatever way possible if it might bring us external beauty. Unfortunately our idea about love is elusive to say the least. This vague concept has been formed through our experiences with others and how we have been treated and cared for by those who “love” us. We have come to believe that love is a physical and emotional response in our attraction to another. This is certainly a minute part of it but it encompasses so much more. At least from God’s point of view. Our belief about what beauty is has been shaped by Hollywood and the media who have told us nothing but lies. We have been told, directly and indirectly, that beauty is on the outside; what we look like. We have come to believe that if we are beautiful enough or have the kind of figure she has or weighed the same as she does, then, and only then will we be happy. Or perhaps if we find prince charming and he rescues us from our mediocre existence then, just maybe, we will be happy. You see, women want more than anything in the world to be affirmed and to be loved. It is a God given desire designed to lead us to His heart. Unfortunately through movies, television, magazines and the like we have come to believe that affirmation comes from physical beauty, and let’s face it, men have not been prone to treat us much different because of their own personal battles. In the same respect we have come to believe that love is a feeling that we feel, an emotion that is fleeting and can be here today and gone tomorrow. We believe that if we are no longer happy in our marriage then we must not be in love any longer or if we are no longer fulfilled then the love has disappeared. Unfortunately, this belief has led to the highest divorce rate in history.
Regardless of how we have sought happiness, I believe that we will all eventually, if we haven’t already, end in same place; still completely and utterly dissatisfied. Why is that? Why is it that we can gain everything that we have aspired to and worked so hard for yet still be thoroughly unhappy and discontent? Why is it that once we get to where we want to be we discover that it is not enough? Why do we always want more? I believe it is because we are mistaken in our beliefs about what actually fulfills us. We believe in chasing that which is tangible because, well, it’s tangible. Besides, it’s what everyone else does. We honestly have become a generation that doesn’t know any different. We chase the tangible because we are self centered. Why? Maybe because our parents made us the center of their world allowing us actions with no consequences believing that it was best. To no fault of their own, they were just heeding the advice of the “experts” of their time. Or maybe it’s because of the age we live in where we have anything and everything available to us with the click of a button. Or, we chase tangible things because consumerism has gone so wrong in our society noted by the idea that he who has the most money wins, so we pursue riches to make us happy. We chase tangible love because Hollywood has perverted sex and love so much so that we now believe that it doesn’t matter who it’s with as long as you are happy and your needs are being met. Are you not happy with your current husband? Just get yourself another one. Are you not happy with men? Go find a woman. The idea of the grass being greener on the other side has become so ingrained in us that we are in hot pursuit of the other side of the fence believing that this is where we will find happiness. I would guess that this could possibly be the explanation for over 50% of marriages ending in divorce leaving the same percentage of children growing up in single parent homes. The problem is that we get to the other side of the fence only to find that in order to have greener grass you must be willing to care for it. It must be watered, aerated, fertilized, mowed and genuinely cared for if it is going to be as green as you had hoped. If only we had known before we jumped the fence, maybe we would have cared for what was already in our own yard. Maybe we would have put more time into our own marriages and family rather than pursuing a better one or one that could possibly make us happier.
So where do we find happiness? I can say with 100% certainty that you will not ever find it in another person. Yet that’s what we do. We look for someone else to make us happy and when they no longer do so, we leave; self-centeredness at its best. Now let me say with utmost sincerity that this is not to condemn anyone for their current situation or where they have been. I promise you, I have been there too. This is to shed some light on the truth and inhibit us from making the same mistakes again and again and hopefully prevent our children from the same fate.
Happiness is defined in the dictionary as being characterized by or indicative of pleasure, contentment or joy. In order to be characterized by something, whatever it is, it has to become a part of who you are as a person. It will begin to define you and whatever it is that’s going on around you cannot change this characterization. Does this mean that if you are characterized by joy that you will never be sad? Absolutely not! It simply means that the sadness does not define who you are. It does not become a part of you or drive what you do, say, think or believe. Where joy lives, sadness cannot stay for long. We will without a doubt feel sadness in this world, but it cannot survive if we are characterized by joy.
So where does this joy come from? How do we seek it? How do we become characterized by it? We do so by abandoning our hearts to the will of God and believing that He has our best interest in mind. By believing that He knows better than we do the path that is right for us and the path will bring us the full joy that is available to us. But we can’t just believe it. We must behave like we believe it. In every circumstance we must pray and ask God what He thinks is best and be willing to obey when He answers. We must read His word and obey His commands, not necessarily with the idea that He is being prohibitive, but with the belief that it is for our protection coming from a father who loves us deeply. It really is that simple. Seek God first and you will inevitably find joy; even if joy is not what you are searching for. Nehemiah 8:10 says that the very source of our strength comes from the joy that is only available from the LORD. This joy does not come from our situation or circumstances. It doesn’t come from our emotional state and how we feel at the moment. Satan has deceived us into believing that when this particular trial is over or when we obtain a bigger home or get a promotion or our husband or child changes or when we lose 15 pounds, then our joy will be complete. But God says our joy is in Him and is available to us right now, right at this very moment. Not tomorrow, not when you are healed, not when your sorrow has passed but right now. I challenge you to take some time to seek him and draw near to him in worship and prayer. Dive in to His word and discover His plan for your life. Discover His commands that will guide and protect. Here is where you will become characterized by joy. Here is where you will find unrelenting strength. Here is where you will find the true meaning of happiness.

John 15:10-12
If you obey my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have obeyed my Father’s commands and remain in His love. I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete.


Priscilla Stringfellow said...

This is soooo true Allison!!

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