In a world so focused on being “happy”, we don’t take much time to consider what prevents us from being “happy”.
It’s interesting how much we focus on being satisfied. Everything in life we do tends to be for our own gratification – to make us “happy”. People quit perfectly good jobs, break up with lifetime lovers, leave their children, chose addiction… all because they think the grass on the other side will make them happier. Advertisers know that products sell because they claim they will be you happy.
I’ve been contemplating joy a lot lately. Actually, I’ve been pondering, searching, striving for true joy my whole life. Despite all this searching for joy, I hadn’t really taken a moment to consider the flip-side: what causes me to be dissatisfied? As a wise kid in my favorite juvenile fiction novel “Wayside School is Falling Down” once said, “You don’t need a reason to be happy, you only need a reason to be sad.”
When I got into a particular funk this week I began to wonder “why?” I had slowly lost steam. I lost motivation to do things and be productive. The job I loved began to feel tiring and more like a chore. I didn’t have the energy to do things like I did before. What happened???
But Micah suggested something to me tonight and as much as I wanted to deny it, I had to admit he had a good point.
Have you ever noticed when you focus on yourself you see your life is full of problems? I had realized that the more selfish I got, the less satisfied I was. I began to think objects would make me happy, or accomplishing things would bring me satisfaction. It’s in the small things: little goals, little desires, little distractions, little excuses, little purchases. I had inch by inch been distancing myself from God by trying to reach for my own selfish desires to make myself happy. In the process I was pulling myself away from the only thing that truly makes me happy.
Now before you roll your eyes at the God point, give me a chance. Reflect on this: has buying something ever made you happy for a significant amount of time? has reaching that goal at work, or that promotion, or whatever level of success made you happy for very long? have you ever been completely satisfied in the long run by accomplishing or obtaining something you obsessed over?
If I’m honest, I have never been truly happy by anything I thought would make me truly happy. To take a chance at making myself vulnerable I’ll tell you a little weakness I have… purses. Oh man… I admit it! I have a fetish and it’s bad!!
I never wanted to be a handbag girl but I am. Roughly every 4-6 weeks I realize by observation (either in an ad or drooling over a purse that someone else has) that my current purse isn’t good enough! It’s too small/narrow/big/heavy/wide/dingy/plain or I need a cross body/tote/clutch/leather/nylon/cloth bag to solve my problems. I literally think “Ooohhhhh if I could just have a bag like this, my life would be so much better!” and then I search and search for the perfect bag (which I rarely find) at a good deal (also hard to find) and buy it and think “YES! this is perfect! that is so much better! I am sooo happy with my pretty bag!” Then <6 weeks later it’s the same old story again. Do you have something like that in your life? An every shifting “god” object that will solve all your problems and make life better? It may seem small, but in the end you make a much bigger deal out of it than it should be. You let it define your happiness.
In the end these things can steal joy from you because they take up your time and your emotions. If you don’t get them you are distraught. All of your life is about that thing and anything that gets in your way causes you anxiety and frustration. You are so focused on the item that you can no longer see the other things around you that could be making you happy.
Well, I’ve got good news and bad news. Bad news: nothing on this earth is going to make you happy!! Good news: God can give you ultimate joy. And He knows your ultimate joy can’t be found in a [purse] <- insert your obsession here. He knows ultimate joy can’t be found in trying to please yourself. He asks you to look outside yourself. Look to Him for your happiness and by doing that He will give you the desire to love and serve others and give you the desires of your heart (the truly perfect desires He has put there).
Tonight I am praying that God would show me how silly my obsessions are and how foolish it is for me to live life so selfishly. I need Him to show me because I still desire those things and I don’t have the power to change my own heart. I want to see how worthless these things are so I can desire what is truly priceless: a relationship with God that leads me to the things in life that truly makes me happy. I am not looking to God to just give me the things I want, I am asking Him to show me what is really worthwhile to invest my life in so I can be truly happy the way He intended.
Do you struggle with finding joy?