*Quick note: The purpose of this blog is not only to focus on writing, but to transform lives through writing and sharing. I know this will certainly step on toes and if it does, get some better shoes, but keep your ears open.*
I’m not really sure what other cultures believe about happiness, but American culture certainly believes that it is a right. Because of three little words – pursuit of happiness – we cling to the idea that we have a right to be happy all the time. Unhappy with your job? Quit. Unhappy with your spouse? Divorce. Unhappy with your government? Elect people who promise an easier life. Did someone say something that made you unhappy? Run to social media, and heck, even the news to cry about how hateful and unfair it is that someone should dare have a differing opinion!
Here’s the thing though. We don’t deserve happiness. It is not a right. Being happy in life isn’t a given. We are never told we have the “right to be happy”. In the United States we do have the “right to pursue happiness”, but it never says it’s going to happen. More than that, how can I say that I deserve happiness, even at the cost of what God has called me to? Because I’m a good person? Hardly. Sure, I’m nice. I like helping people. But I’m not good. Jesus said, “Why do you call me good? No one is good except God alone.” (Luke 18:19) [Small digression here: This isn’t Jesus saying that He isn’t good, or isn’t God. This is Him stating something all the hearers knew: only God is good. This is Jesus saying that they are recognizing that He is God with their words.] Does that mean we should only be stern and morose, moping around saying “Woe is me!”? Absolutely not! There is joy in this life! There will be thousands of happy moments. These moments are part of life, however, undeserved. Sadness, happiness, and rain come to wicked and righteous alike.
As Christians we are called to something much more important than pursuing our own happiness: love. We are called to love others. Not with the superficial “I’ll say hi on Sunday mornings” kind, but with the sacrificial love that Christ showed us. Paul David Tripp highlights in his book, Instruments in the Redeemer’s Hands, that “relationships are not primarily for our fulfillment. On the contrary, relationships between sinners are messy, difficult, labor-intensive, and demanding, but in that, they are designed to result in God’s glory and our good as he is worshiped and our hearts are changed.” Loving people is not on a case by case basis, it is a conscious choice to make loving people a lifestyle.
This lifestyle does not lead to the road of “prosperity.” It is the road of obedience and blessing. This road is rocky and narrow, full of hardship and tears. But Psalm 126:5 tells us that those who sow tears will reap songs of joy. A life worth living is hard work. To have a full life, we must fill it with meaningful relationships, not staying focused on ourselves. Pursuing our own happiness means sacrificing others – the exact opposite of what we are called to do! On the last day of your life, what will it matter what job/house/car/clothes you had? It’s all staying here. And once you are gone, will people remember you as a bulldozer, someone willing to do anything to stay happy no matter the cost to others? Or will people remember someone who loved well?