Finally it dawned on me… No one else can make me happy. No one else needs to, and more importantly, no one deserves that responsibility. It would certainly not be fair to them to take this one on (I am a handful, FYI).
Happiness is not a means to an end; it is an end. That means that you cannot just go in search of happiness, as Oprah would have you believe. Same goes for love. We have all heard to “let it find you.” When you least expect it…
But, that did not stop me from looking for love, especially when I found myself in that familiar panic state–the one where no one loves you, you’re in a garden, alone and hungry, and the only thing on the menu that day is–you guessed it–worms! Heaven forbid you catch wind of an old lovers ballad or see a preview for a Harlequin Romance, Lifetime movie. Boohoo, I need me somebody to love!!! Give me a break.
Passionate love in the form of “boy meets girl” is the theme of damn nearly every movie and 100% of all romance novels. *Er, oops, I take that back. I forgot the new gay-formula plots… Point noted…
Regardless, ever hear of a chick flick that pertained to finding love without someone else–something somewhere that no one else can reach? The innermost reaches of the soul? *And, it should be noted that there is no “soul mate” out there. Yeah. Sorry, that is also a myth–a lie perpetuated by infinite media formats and advertisements. Gotta hook up, man! Get you some! Lie.
Anyway, loneliness can become a big problem, especially when ever-increasing yearning for affectation compounds itself through compulsive thought. Loneliness begins badly and then worsens as a person seemingly delights at dwelling in a cycle of misery. It is like the “death spiral” of a downward plane. It is real bad at first, but at a point, it actually crosses into a new phase of irreversibility. One realizes his/ her loneliness one day, only to find oneself more miserable the next day, the next week, the next month ad infinitum. Becoming obsessed with one’s isolation becomes the problem–more so than loneliness alone. This is the point at which people do some very stupid stuff with their lives.
Of course, this is easier for me to write when I have company, sure. Try me after I get dumped and left for dead by a girlfriend or a spouse. Been there, done that. However, I had to pick up and move on. What else is there to do, besides decrying the spilt milk? It sucks, but there is bright news: Jesus Christ. Put your trust in him and him alone. While everyone else in this life is here one minute and gone the next, only Jesus is abundant life and unwavering love.
I found a short essay on the web by Bruce MacKay of Toowoomba Christian Fellowship in Australia. I liked the points he made, so instead of reinventing the wheel, I am going to borrow one…
The Life of Jesus: Jesus Teaches on True Happiness
By Bruce Mackay
Every person desires true happiness. It is the quest of every human, regardless of culture, country or religion. The longing for happiness lies deep in the heart of everyone. Yet few find true happiness. Why? Why do all search for and desire true happiness, but so few find it, keep it and live it?
Could it be that we search in the wrong places? The things we think will bring happiness actually don’t. Many a millionaire has declared that they thought money could buy happiness, just to be disillusioned. How many have walked the aisle in marriage, believing that the result would be true happiness, only to be disappointed as their many expectations could never be met? Others have thought that success would bring happiness, yet it only brought depression. No one can say that true lasting happiness has been found through money, sport, knowledge or fame. It may have brought some temporary pleasure, but not lasting happiness. The search for true happiness can be like chasing the wind or trying to hold water in our hands. It is elusive.
No wonder crowds of people would follow Jesus and sit and listen to His words, because He spoke about true happiness and lasting peace and joy.
Two kinds of happiness
There is a temporary happiness. This comes to us when the circumstances are just right; when things are pleasant and we are free of troubles. As we all know, this can never last. Circumstances can change in an instant and, with them, happiness evaporates. If we were really truthful, even in ideal circumstances happiness can be missing. We can still be troubled within. We are still unsettled about our children, our future, our finances or relationships. Something eludes us. The happy moment we experience still seems to fall short of what we long for deep within. This first type of happiness is only temporary and shallow. It always disappears and the desire for true happiness remains.
There is a happiness that comes from God. It is a happiness that lasts. It brings an inner peace regardless of circumstances. No matter what situation or difficult circumstance that we face (and we all face them), true happiness remains. In fact, it can even grow stronger in adversity. The happiness through Jesus is a contentment that fills the soul, even if the eyes are filled with tears. True happiness is not based on success or failure, wealth or poverty, fame or obscurity. As we journey with Jesus, we will learn what He taught on true happiness.
Jesus dispels the myths that society say will bring happiness
The general attitude of society is that being wealthy will solve every problem and that if every problem is solved we will be happy. Just listen to the conversation in the lunch room of a work place. ‘How are you today?’ – ‘I’ll be great if I win Gold Lotto.’ – ‘Is everything OK? You look troubled.’ – ‘Nothing that a million dollars wouldn’t fix! Jesus dispelled this thinking and said that a person’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.
‘Then one from the crowd said to Him, “Teacher, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me”. But He said to him, “Man, who made Me a judge or an arbitrator over you?” And He said to them, “Take heed and beware of covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of the things he possesses.” Then He spoke a parable to them, saying: “The ground of a certain rich man yielded plentifully. And he thought within himself, saying, ‘What shall I do, since I have no room to store my crops?’ So he said, ‘I will do this: I will pull down my barns and build greater, and there I will store all my crops and my goods. And I will say to my soul, “Soul, you have many goods laid up for many years; take your ease; eat, drink, and be merry.”’ But God said to him, “Fool! This night your soul will be required of you; then whose will those things be which you have provided?” So is he who lays up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God.’ Luke 12:13-21.
The man in this story felt that material possessions equaled peace and happiness. He felt that he had ‘arrived’. The problem was that his focus on wealth and possessions had blinded him to eternal and spiritual realities. Jesus also said, ‘Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also’. Matt 6:21. His heart was in the things he had accumulated; his earthly treasures.
‘And I will say to my soul, “Soul, you have many goods laid up for many years; take your ease; eat, drink, and be merry”.’ Luke 12:19. He had no heavenly treasure, therefore he had no heart for God and His life. Many possessions had brought about an invincibility to his thinking. Jesus made it clear that to put material possessions ahead of spiritual well-being is foolish.
‘Fool, this night your soul will be require of you’
You cannot put a price on a soul. Money and possessions cannot add one second to our life. Once we have died, our earthly possessions hold no value to us. They are worthless. We come into the world with no possessions and we leave it the same way. We must find happiness and contentment in what we can take with us when our soul is required of us. This is why we must find true happiness and contentment apart from earthly possessions.
Many of us are worried about the opinions of others. We must firstly be concerned that we are not a ‘fool’ in God’s opinion. Jesus said, ‘So is he who lays up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God’.
How can we be rich toward God?
This is first understood by what it cost Christ to restore us to Himself. God the Son, being equal and one with God the Father and God the Holy Spirit, offered Himself to become a man. Yet, the price He paid went further, as He made Himself of no reputation, and lived as a servant. He paid the full cost by laying His life down in death, even the death of the cross. He treasured us so much that He purchased us, not with silver and gold, but with His own precious blood.
God has declared the value of an eternal soul – His life. For us to be rich toward God we must put the same value on our soul and place it in His hands. We give ourselves fully to Him, putting Him and His life above all else. The apostle Paul expressed how to be rich toward God this way. ‘If then you were raised with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God. Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth. For you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is our life appears, then you also will appear with Him in glory. Therefore, put to death your members which are on the earth: fornication, uncleanness, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry.’ Col 3:1-5.
What robs us of true happiness?
It is very difficult to experience true happiness while we are anxious and have no peace. There are myriads of things that can make us anxious; finance, health, family, a busy program, staff, work – and the list continues to go on. We spend a lot of our time worrying about the past. What we did or didn’t do and how we did it or even what we said. ‘Did they really mean that?’ ‘I hope they didn’t take me the wrong way.’ Our mind goes on and on about the things of the past. We also spend our time being anxious about the future; what might happen next. But we seem to spend very little time living in peace right now. True happiness is when we are not living in or dwelling on the past or anxious about the future, but are able to enjoy ‘the now’.
Through Jesus Christ, the peace of God can guard our hearts. Having a relationship with the living God is the only genuine way to remove anxiety. Jesus said, ‘I am the way, the truth and the life’. John 14:6. He has opened a way for us to know God and receive the life of God. He says that He will never leave us nor forsake us. God can forgive and restore the past. So why be anxious about the past? Let God heal and restore. God knows the future, so we can confidently trust our tomorrow to Him. There is no need to be anxious about a future that we have no control over. ‘Rejoice in the Lord always. Again I will say, rejoice! Let your gentleness be known to all men. The Lord is at hand. Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.’ Phil 4:4-7.
Jesus lived His time on earth fully as a man. As God, He limited Himself to all the emotion, pain and feelings that every human experiences. He trusted fully on the life of God the Father. He experienced tiredness, hunger, thirst, sorrow and betrayal. Yet He was never anxious. He was at peace. He knew that His life was in His Father’s hand, and if we are in the hand of the all-knowing, all-seeing and all-powerful God, we have the recipe for peace and true happiness. Why would we be anxious?
We can receive the same life and live as sons of God. Through prayer, we can bear whatever situation we are in to be content. Sometimes in life we will have abundance and at other times we may be in real need. Yet through Christ we can be strengthened, be at peace and be genuinely happy, experiencing the joy of the Lord.
Another false belief
The advice most people give is to ‘look after number one’, because if you don’t put yourself first, no one else will. Jesus, again, contradicts this. ‘He who finds his life will lose it, and he who loses his life for My sake will find it.’ Matt 10:39.
‘Then Jesus said to His disciples, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me. For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it. For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul? For the Son of Man will come in the glory of His Father with His angels, and then He will reward each according to his works”.’ Matt 16:24-27.
Nature also teaches us this. For a tree to bear fruit, its seed first goes into the ground and dies. The fruit it bears is not for itself, but is a gift to all who will partake of that fruit. New life and abundant fruit is the result of the seed going into the ground to die.
Jesus taught us that if we tried to put ourselves first and looked after ‘number one’, then there would be no fruit of happiness. But if we would deny ourselves for Christ, we would find abundant life in Christ. Jesus said, ‘I have come that you might have life and have it in abundance’. This abundant life that Jesus spoke of is His life from above – a life of joy in Christ.
Be of good cheer
‘Be of good cheer’, is a statement that Jesus made on several occasions. One of the occasions was to do with finding joy in a world of conflict and sorrow. He taught that He had overcome those pressures of the world that rob and destroy, and found peace and joy. He taught that it was possible for His followers to also overcome through prayer and the enabling presence and life of the Holy Spirit.
‘Therefore you now have sorrow; but I will see you again and your heart will rejoice, and your joy no one will take from you.’ John 16:22.
‘These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.’ John 16:33.
On another occasion, Jesus said, ‘Be of good cheer, your sins are forgiven you’. Forgiveness of sins would be the most important reality for true joy and happiness. Sin robs us of peace. Sin brings guilt and shame. Sin leaves our soul in darkness. Sin stands in the way of open relating. Sin separates us from God. We have no power or capacity to forgive and remove our own sin. No man can forgive sin. Jesus, only, can forgive our sin. He came to earth that He might take away the sin of the world. Christ died for our sins. Happy is the person whose sins are forgiven and for whom God has removed all record of sinful deeds.
Jesus invites you to come confessing your sin to Him and accepting that it was your sin that He bore on the cross. Turn to Him, call on Him to be your Lord and receive His life. Jesus taught very clearly that for His life to be in us we must participate and abide in the fellowship of the body of Christ which is His church. He said, ‘If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love, just as I have kept My Father’s commandments and abide in His love. These things I have spoken to you, that My joy may remain in you, and that your joy may be full.’ John 15:10-11
It is His joy that enables us to have our joy full. His disciple John said that this is experienced through the fellowship of the body of Christ which is the church.