Tuesday, September 28, 2010

The Elusive State of Happiness

I read that someone has a new book out on what it takes to be happy, which I'm sure the general population will sweep off the shelves in no time at all, looking for the new hope, the new recipe or new list of "to-dos" that will finally bring them the coveted secret to having lifelong happiness. I'm not sure how long it's been since the last person took a stab at this topic, but surely it can't be more than just a few months. Everyone, it seems, who needs a little cash flow going on is writing a book. I've given it a thought myself once or twice. But it seems a monumental task to empty all the goings on in this brain that has been accumulating data for more than six decades. And I've often realized, sometimes belatedly, that when one is as opinionated and bombastic as I can be at times it is best that one strives diligently to try to keep one's big mouth shut.

As I am not writing a book, I ecstatically feel the freedom to blog away all the ruminating that is swirling around up there in that mass of grey. And, so, on to the topic. Happiness it is. And as I so often do, my first stop is at the local dictionary I just happen to keep close.

happiness: glad, content, lucky, fortunate

The terms "lucky" and "fortunate" seemed off track, but not when I glanced up the page to "happen" and saw that this word means "to come by chance". The "hap" portion of these words meaning "chance". My discovery has now taken a turn toward a meaning that I wasn't familiar with, and I find that really exciting.

So, if I am to follow that source I am to deduce that all happiness is based on my luck. If I am fortunate, I will be happy. If certain things happen, then, and it is based on this, only then, will I be happy. I think Webster and his crew have missed something. Just think of all the people in this world that have just missed the boat when it comes down to their luck. The "ship" never comes in for some people; dare I say most people? Many, actually most, of my friends and acquaintances have been down on their luck many times, and still they are happy. Contrarily, I've heard of many people whose "ship" came in, and yet they live their lives distressed and lost in their way, sometimes so deeply depressed with life that they can no longer bear to be a part of it. They spend their days angry and bitter with life.

To grasp this thought I must believe that if I am lucky I will make it to work today without being crashed into or stopped for speeding, or I won't run over anyone who accidentally steps out in front of me. What I really believe is that if I am careful to drive cautiously and sensibly, watching out for those who may make bad choices as they drive, and if I am careful to obey the speed limits, use my turn signals, and stop where I am suppose to stop, then I think that I will get to work today without incident. Then will I be happy? Does my happiness depend on the happenings of the rest of the day?

Psalm 37:4. "Delight yourself in the LORD; and He will give you the desires of your heart."

Does that sound like happiness to you? Let's break that down a little.

delight: to take great pleasure in/or to give great pleasure to. the source of pleasure, great satisfaction, joy.

I like the sound of all that. I like pleasure, it's fun. I really enjoy giving pleasure because in the end I'm also the one who feels...happy, and great satisfaction.

desire: to yearn for the possession of, to request, longing.

So that verse in the Psalms is telling me that if I take pleasure and give pleasure to the LORD, which I know means making my Father happy by obeying His words, then I will receive from Him great satisfaction and pleasure, even be joyful.

This is what I really want to convey to this reader: happiness is not acquired when you're lucky. Happiness is not the result of having a good day, a good week. Happiness is not a guaranteed result of winning a fifty million dollar lottery, although you will get a pretty good high from it. But it won't last forever. Happiness is not a given even if the school football captain asks you to the prom. Happiness is a choice. It's your choice. Materially, monetarily, emotionally you can have it all, or you can have nothing, but you can still choose to be happy.

The only prescription that you will ever need for happiness is in Psalm 37:4. Choose to give the LORD pleasure and joy by your total obedience, and He, the LORD, will see to it that you will be forever happy. That doesn't mean bad things won't happen. It means that when bad things happen it won't ruin or spoil or damper or cancel out your happiness, because when you have God's pleasure and approval you have everything you will ever need. Always. And, your desires will become God's desires.

I can tell you these things from experience. I once tried to make my career and making money my happiness. I thought being married and having children would fulfill it all. I truly was convinced that if I had the very one that I loved with all my heart I would be content. I tried so many other avenues to find my peace, but it only came when I turned it all over to Him. He asked me to give a lot of it up, so I did. Then He replaced what I had thought was so dear to me with His love and His gift of eternity through His Son Jesus, and the fellowship of my constant comfort and companion, the Holy Spirit. Happiness came with His presence in my life, and it just keeps getting better and better every day. Happiness is your choice when you choose Him.

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