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The Ultimate Pursuit Of Happiness
by Cate Russell-Cole
11/02/2015 / Self Help
I seem to be one of these people who never goes looking for trouble, but it always succeeds in finding me! I value the idea of a quiet life. I don't want to be a millionaire, I don't want to be popular, I don't even want to look like a supermodel. I'd just like to see the bills paid with a bit of extra put aside for emergencies, a car that doesn't keep breaking down, a decent family that doesn't use me for its own ends, a few valued close friends, and a positive job to occupy me. Now is that asking too much? Simple as that may be by the standards of the nineties, it never seems to happen.
Take for example last year. I live in a block of units with a communal car park. At 3am one morning, the car next to mine just decided to ignite and burn to the ground, the cause was an electrical fault in the motor. The lady who owned the car was overjoyed, she was planning on getting a new car, and had a wonderful insurance payment. As for me, my car was badly blistered down one side, my wheelchair hoist was partially melted, thus grounding me, and this sent was a disaster that sent me into total financial chaos. The insurance company, who I had paid into for 13 years without ever having made a claim, decided they wanted $500 to fix it now, even though it wasn't my fault.
On top of this my mother was on chemotherapy and ill, my cat had to be put down, my friends were so busy with their own lives I was lonely beyond endurance and God and I were not on the best of terms. Of course we weren't. He could have stopped that wretched thing from happening, and the rest of it! I guess it is an understatement and totally unnecessary to tell you that I wasn't happy...
Sociologists have decided to research what makes people happy, and who knows, if we can follow the equation of success, perhaps some of our social problems will disappear as well? So far the discovery has been made that in wealthy nations, money isn't really related to how happy you are.
I understand that link. Money doesn't fix everything. My being able to get the car fixed that day would still not have made my mother well, brought the incurable cat back from the dead or sorted out my friends priorities in my favour, well, at least unless I had the kind of shallow acquaintances who could be easily bought. The studies also stated the obvious, in saying that you were happier if your marriage and family relationships were in good shape, and constantly unhappy if they weren't. No new headlines there. Then they went on to say the quality of your values, interests, health, and workplace all had a role to play, and if you felt like a meaningless little nothing at work, you had a better chance of getting cardiovascular disease and suffering from depression.
I finished reading this article and wondered why they had even bothered to write it. Don't we already know all this? They gave no answers as to how to make your spouse better quality, get your kids to stop getting into trouble, or how to get a better job with the perfect boss etc. The most they could say was and to improve the individual's confidence and morale, we need more effective support for family life. If there are people who can help us iron out our problems, then we will be happy.
The sociologists were specifically speaking about government born services such as counselling, child minding etc., and again I had to wonder whether in reality, they really solved the problems at the heart of the matter, and that is generally the real problem: the individual's heart. God is very cluey. When He made us, it wasn't by accident.
We are not a product of evolution, our mental and physical structure didn't gradually evolve to produce what we are today. A wiser scientist has said that the chances of life evolving on earth in such complexity, are the same as the chances of a strong wind blowing through a junk yard and assembling a flight worthy 747 aircraft. It is not only our bodies that science has never been able to fully understand and explain, but also our hearts. Only the Creator who holds the blueprints can tell us what is really wrong.
In Jeremiah He reveals to us a good part of the problem: "The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked; who can know it? I the Lord, search the heart, I test the mind..." verses 17:9-10a
Again in Ephesians God talks again about our hearts being imperfect. "...no longer walk as the Gentiles walk, in the futility of their mind, having their understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God, because of the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart; who being past feeling, have given themselves over to lewdness, to work all uncleanness with greediness... put off, concerning your former conduct, the old man which grows corrupt according to deceitful lusts, and be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and that you put on the new man which was created according to God, in true righteousness and holiness." Ephesians 4:17b-19 and 22-24
I was taught once that the wish and intent of the Gentiles, as referred to here, was to be happy, and from this you can see, happiness can be our worst enemy. Our natural desires, if left without correction, soon blow out of control and this is what causes the most irreparable harm. As Galatians 5:19-21 lists them, the long term results are sexual sins that break hearts and ruin lives, ending in disease, unwanted children and abuse. Also we see envy, murders, hatred, fights, unrestrained anger, jealousy, lying, drunkenness and addictions, and from these come all the social problems everyone is scared of and are trying to stop from happening.
To do this, we are trying to find the ultimate way to find and harness happiness, but from what God's Word shows me, we are going to end up in a nasty cycle on this path. Pursuing happiness leads to greed etc. which creates further problems which we attempt to escape from by trying to find... you guessed it, happiness, the great solver of all problems, and around we go again.
It is not so much our happiness that matters to God, as our character and faith. With these two things built up, we will not only have qualities that are of an eternal value, but our lives will be so much easier in the long run. How much less trouble will we experience if we are made cleaner through the trials of life, and God does not allow the seeds of pride, greed, selfishness, fruitless ambition and anxiety to grow in us?
When we look back with a clear mind, I am sure that one day we will thank God that He allowed us seasons of suffering so that we could be saved from the worse problems that breed in too longer times of ease and happiness, when we lose our need of God and our priorities revolve around what we want and the world's ways. When we battle and are unhappy, that is when we see the 'big picture' of life, that is when we search for truth. If we never have a need to search, then our hearts are like that of a spoiled child, totally selfish and ruined.
There is only One in who we can find true happiness which will not send us on a path to self destruction, and that is the Lord Jesus Christ. He has said that if we seek Him, "For I will turn their mourning to joy, will comfort them, and make them rejoice rather than sorrow...and My people shall be satisfied with My goodness, says the Lord." Jeremiah 31:13b-14
The best, and only balanced way can only be found in Him.
Written 1999 but still relevant!
This article by Cate Russell-Cole is under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International (CC BY-SA 4.0)
Written in Australian English.
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