One of the most often made comments to me, by those who have chosen to go into sin, to leave their spouse, or even to rebel against their family is, “I just want to be happy.” Nothing reveals the selfishness of one's heart, like that statement.
My dad always said, “You don't find happiness looking for it, you stumble over it in the pathway of duty.” I knew no happier person than my dad; he genuinely had happiness. He was not cheerful at the office and crabby at home. He was always happy. That does not mean that there was not sadness in his life. He experienced more sadness than most of us will ever know, but he learned how to be happy in his sadness. This is the principle that I think most people miss. You can be happy in your sadness. How? By understanding what happiness is.
Webster has two definitions for happiness:
The first definition is “a state of well-being and contentment.”
The second is “a pleasurable or satisfying experience.”
Happiness comes in two ways. There are those who live in a state of happiness and those experiences of happiness.
Living in a state of happiness requires two qualities. Gratitude and commitment. A person who is grateful for what they have, and contented with what they have, will live in a state of happiness. An experience of happiness is what most people are looking for. The person who lives in a state of happiness, can also experience happiness. However, not everyone who experiences happiness, lives in a state of happiness. You see, they are always looking for something else to heighten their sense of happiness. They are like drug addicts who need a new fix. They go from experience to experience, friend to friend, relationship to relationship, all in an attempt to find happiness. They are looking for happiness in experiences. The person who lives in a state of happiness stumbles over that experience and enjoys it when it comes. Let me give you an example;
My dad was happy all the time. The reason he was happy all the time is because he was grateful for everything in his life, and he was contented with everything that he had. He did not want for anything. When someone surprised him with a gift, he was happy within his happiness. In other words, the happiness in which he lived, enjoyed a moment of experienced happiness. When the experience was over, he remained in a state of happiness.
A person who is happy; enjoys an occasional party. A person who parties all the time is seeking for happiness. One needs to party, in order to be happy. Thus, the party is forced to accomplish a purpose. A person who lives in happiness has no expectations for a party, to bring them happiness, so they are able to enjoy it for what it is. We want experiences to live up to our expectations, because we need those experiences to bring us happiness. However, when you are happy, experiences are experiences. You don't need more and better, to be happy because you already are happy. We live in a society seeking for bigger and better experiences because they need stronger doses of happiness. When you live in happiness, experiences need not produce an expected end.
My dad never got too happy over an experience, because he did not want his happiness to come from that experience. He wanted to enjoy the happiness of an experience, within the happiness of his state of happiness. Nothing destroys happiness more, than seeking for happiness through experiences.
Now, let me apply this to sin. A man or a lady who lives in a state of gratitude for their spouse and their family, and learns to be content with what God has given to them is a person who will be living in happiness. The lack of gratitude, and the absence of contentment, will lead to seeking experiences of happiness, and that's when Satan takes hold. That is true with all sin. When we are not thankful and contented with that which we have, then we must seek experiences for happiness, and that feeds the flesh. A state of happiness is a spiritual happiness. An experience of happiness is a fleshly happiness. There is nothing wrong with fleshly happiness as long as you don't need it. There is nothing wrong with enjoying a party, as long as you don't need the party to be happy. When you need the party to be happy, you become a party animal, and it becomes an addiction. All addictions require a greater dose, to maintain their level of excitement.
So how do you arrive at a state of happiness? Let me give you a few things my dad did:
1. Compare your life to those who have less, not to those who have more. This is critical. Do not look at those who have more, and compare your life to them. They may not be happy. Their more, may mask their own unhappiness. Look at others who have less, and realize how fortunate you are to have what you have.
2. In everything give thanks. The Bible says, “that's the will of God for you in Christ Jesus.” So, when we are in Christ Jesus, we are commanded to give thanks in everything. Giving thanks in everything, leads to happiness because that is God’s will. Bad marriage? Give thanks. Suffering with affliction? Give thanks.
3. Enjoy what you have, fully. Savor every thing. My dad could enjoy cheese on crackers as much as most people can savor a T-bone steak. He liked T-bone steaks, but he did not need T-bone steaks to make him happy. He savored the cheese and crackers. Savor the simple things. Savor the the mundane. Notice what is around you already, so that you don't get distracted by the things you see, that are not yours. Cherish the people in your life, so you don't need to seek others to replace them.
4. Keep your values in order. Don't value things; don't value experiences; value relationships. Value the opportunities God has given you, to influence, and to be influenced by others in your life.
5. Remind yourself daily, of the goodness of God. All discontentment comes, when we fail to realize how good God has been to us. Not being happy with the life God has given you, is a slap in God’s face.
So, how do we keep ourselves from becoming experience seekers? Let me give you a few thoughts.
1. Eat at home more, and eat out less. That may sound silly. We have become a society that needs new dining experiences. We missed the chance to enjoy cooking the meal by always seeking to experience a meal. Enjoy the home cooked meals.
2. Get the most out of everything you have, so that you don't always need more. The old saying, “One man's junk is another man's treasure,” is true. Maybe we should learn to treasure our junk more. We once loved, what we now consider to be junk. Take a new look at what you have rather than at things that are new.
3. Be aware when experiences dissatisfy you. The sign that you are becoming an experience addict is, that what once brought you happiness, within your happiness, now is not enough. You are seeking more experiences, in order to be happy.
4. Be still and know. Stillness is a lost art. We are so busy seeking experiences that we spend very little time in meditation and thought. Don't be an experience junkie. Be meditative in your life. My dad would sometimes just sit and think about people and it would give him a peace and calm, as well as an appreciation for those people in his life.
“I just want to be happy,” you say. So why don't you be happy. What you probably mean is I need more happy experiences, because I am not contented and grateful for that which God has given me. (DH)