May 13, 2013

Why Living For Happiness Won’t Work

There once was a pink Barbie Corvette.  A glorious pink Barbie Corvette.  I dreamed of Barbie and Skipper cruising around my plush cream carpet, wind blowing in their perfect hair, not a care in their plastic world.  As a 7-year-old I just knew, if I got that car, I'd be happy.

But my neighbor down the street got the pink Barbie Corvette, and she wasn't happy.  Her parents were fighting a lot, and the toy wasn't enough to make her stop crying at night.

So if the pink Barbie Corvette wasn't the cure-all for making 7-year-olds happy, then what was?  Was there a toy that made all your blues go away?


Most people spend their whole lives trying to find that ‘toy' that gives the savory satisfaction of happiness.  They crave it like a pill that will clear away their internal storms.  The problem is, when you live to simply be happy, most of the time it's just about you.

It's about what you can get.

It's about your circumstance.

It's about your feelings.

And ultimately, it becomes a selfish posture looking at the world saying, ‘”What can you give ME so I can finally feel satisfied?”


I find when my life simply becomes focused on obtaining happiness, my perspective is very internal.  And as a result, I'm not happy at all, always measuring my internal emotions instead of living for a larger cause.   And this always makes me feel emptier than ever.  This 'empty self' is so common in our Western culture that it's sometimes referred to as a cultural plague.  According to psychologist Philip Cushman,

the empty self is filled up with consumer goods, calories, experiences, politicians, romantic partners, and empathetic therapists… (The empty self) experiences a significant absense of community, tradition, and sharing meaning…..a lack of personal conviction and worth, and it embodies the absences as a chronic, undifferentiated emotional hunger.  

In the book Kingdom Triangle, J. P. Moreland introduces the reader to the leading professor and the nation's leading researcher on happiness, Professor Martin Seligman, who has devoted over 30 years studying the topic of happiness.  He found repeatedly that when people live for “happiness,” they turn their attention inward and become shriveled selves who are anything but “happy.”  In 1988, he found that the Baby Boom generation of American experienced a tenfold increase in depression compared to earlier generations.

Why?  Because they stopped living for a cause bigger than themselves like their ancestors.  Baby Boomers began spending their energy on living for themselves and their own pleasurable satisfaction.  And the result was sadness.


But what if there's a better way?

The Bible doesn't promise me happiness.  Ever. But it does promise me something better…peace and joy.  I think when people search for happiness, they're just longing for a counterfeit of peace and joy, something as believers we already have.  Galatians 5:22 says my inheritance is fruit–fruit that I already possess because of Christ–is love, JOY, PEACE……

Here's the thing:

Happiness comes from circumstances

Joy comes from relationship

Peace comes from trust


The more I shift my desire for happiness to peace and joy, a funny thing happens.  I'm happier than ever.  The more I shift my focus to living in the joy that's available to me in Christ, the more that relationship fills me with a smile that can never go away–no matter what happens circumstantially.  The more I meditate on the promise of peace, the more I realize the Guy giving me peace is in charge of everything–and His peace always surpasses my understanding.

I don't live for happiness anymore.  I live to see the fullness of peace and joy grow deep root systems inside the soil of my heart.  The more I do, the happier I become.



Have you bought into the Baby Boomer generation search for happiness?  Is your life's focus to make sure your relationships, your job, your house, your appearance, etc make you feel the fleeting emotion of happiness?

If the answer is yes, take a minute to pray and refocus:

“God, I rethink my lust for happiness.  I rethink my focus on internal things.  I renounce the enemy and his authority to torment me in this area and take back that land in my heart, handing it to you.  I replace the lie and search for happiness with the truth–that I live for something greater than myself.  I'm filled with joy in every circumstance, because it's a promise!  I'm filled with peace that passes all understanding, guarding my heart and mind in Christ Jesus.  

 I will live to receive your love, your joy, and your peace, and then give it away to a world that needs it.  Amen.”



One Response to “Why Living For Happiness Won’t Work”

  1. I lost all my peace, joy and happiness over the last year, and I don’t know how to get it back. There have been so many books and blogs on singleness but none really talk about hitting your late thirties and that prayer still hasn’t been answered. Most authors have this prayer answered before that time hits. But when the window is closing on your deepest desire to be a mom (your friends have kids about to graduate high school) and you are so insanely lonely when you walk into the house my views and feelings towards God have not been pretty. It doesn’t help that you don’t fit in church because they don’t have groups for people like you, because it’s not supposed to be this way. I know you are supposed to accept God’s “plan” but that desire is as deep now as it was when I was 18 and to be honest if the answer is no I can’t accept that right now.

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