You know how last week I wondered why, when we are so obsessed with love, is there still so little of it in the world?
Well I have a similar question. Why, when we are so obsessed with happiness, is there still so little of it in the world?
Our entire culture revolves around being happy. Have you ever realized that? Movies are made so that we can sit down and feel happy by the end. We devote huge chunks of our lives to earning money so we can be happy. We spend a lot of that money, actually, on everything we can think of and everything we are told to think of, because we think that houses and cars, TVs and smartphones, shoes, books, food and clothes will make us happy. We even spend money on education that will hopefully help us make more money that will make us happy.
We abuse others – and ourselves – in pursuit of our own happiness. The couple divorces because they are not happy. The boss unfairly fires his employee because he is not happy. The friend is unkind because she is not happy. The church splits because it is not happy. The thief steals because he is not happy.
The Declaration of Independence says we have the right to “Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness”. The irony is that pursuing happiness is all we ever do. We never catch it; we never attain it. And I think, that while it is all well and good to pursue happiness, ultimately it is a farce.
I’ve realized that when I think about my life, who I am, what I do, and what I am planning to be and do, it is so easy to question whether I am and will be happy. And to an extent, this is important. You don’t want to be absolutely miserable in life. But the danger in evaluating happiness is that happiness starts to become the end game. It’s easy to buy society’s ideal that happiness is all that matters. I find myself getting very depressed over my life and myself, because the truth is that I am not always happy with my circumstances, my progress as a person, and the people around me.
But here’s the thing: happiness is never complete and satisfied. If you are always asking yourself “am I/will I be happy?” you are missing the point. You are striving for something that can never be obtained. For as beautiful as the world is, there is also ugliness, dirtiness, and unhappiness. Sometimes we need those things. Sometimes we need to be uncomfortable and unhappy. When we are we can grow. We can see the people and situations around us more clearly. We can be so much less caught up in our own stupid little selfish worlds and actually think outside of ourselves.
In a word, what we need is peace. Do not ask yourself “am I happy?”. There will always be a reason to answer no. Instead, ask yourself “am I at peace?” There is a heck of a difference. Happiness is an endless pursuit, always grasping beyond what we have for something more. Happiness is very self-centered. Peace, on the other hand, is contentment. It is repose. It is thankfulness. It serves others. It delights in the blessings and is okay with the deficiencies. And really, isn’t peace what we truly need? Happiness is so superficial. Peace is deeper and eternal.
This is a hard thing to work on, I know. Our culture is saturated with the pursuit of happiness. We as Americans might even think it against all we believe in to not pursue it. But keep this in mind: our principles grant us “the pursuit of happiness”. They don’t promise that we’ll ever find it. The Creator of the universe, however, absolutely promises that “the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:7 ESV). Somehow that seems like a better deal than running after elusive and fickle happiness.
So stop pursuing happiness. Start receiving peace.