The Great Deception Called Happiness

woman crying over empty wallet
If you've been seeking a life of continual happiness, perhaps it's time to start prayerfully asking for and embracing lessons in contentment. (iStockPhoto.com)

This morning was not a fantastic morning. Nothing dramatically bad, just not very good, and all due to the fact that my husband and I overslept.

In the space of 10 seconds we had been torn from blissful slumber, cocooned in warm blankets while rain danced on our roof tops, into the panicked reality of an even rushier (I made that word up) than rushed, morning chaos.

Oh, what a rude awakening!

It was so hard to leave our warm bed and face a cold, gray day with no time to stretch, no time to properly emerge from sleep inertia, no time to psychologically ease ourselves into the day, no time for self-pep talks, only time to get on with it.

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After the school drop off, as I returned to an empty house, I wondered ... How often in life am I cruising along comfortably, embraced by the warmth of oblivion and, BAM, curveball, Something happens that shocks me out of my comfort zone?

We humans don't usually enjoy discomfort. We actively avoid it. We actively avoid emotional pain. And relationally speaking, most of us tend to actively avoid situations that stretch us and test our limits. Yet it's these moments that often provide the most growth. The biggest learning opportunities.

This Western culture, of which I am a part, has fallen for a colossal lie: Happiness is the state of being, for which we should continually strive to be in.

One need only look at our current divorce rates, and the emergence of "cheating dating websites," which, according to recent reports are growing by the day, for proof that we've taken the happiness bait, falling for it hook, line and sinker. Though that, I suppose, could be a whole other article on its own.

Created as God-reflective beings, we have been gifted with a wide range of expressive human emotions, and none of them, despite what we're often led through our culture to believe, are "bad."

Some are certainly more unpleasant to experience than others, some have the potential to be dangerous if acted upon inappropriately, but none are wrong to feel.

So why have we placed happiness upon a pedestal that can't possibly bear it as a perpetual weight?

Why do we see happiness as our right, our entitlement as humans?

And why are so many people who follow the teachings of Jesus so angry when happiness becomes an only "sometimes" thing?

Have you studied Jesus' life?

He was labelled a "Man of sorrows"! (Is. 53:3).

Is it possible that, somewhere along the way, we've confused joy with happiness? Is it possible that we've confused happiness with contentment?

The apostle Paul stated in Philippians 4: "I have learned in whatever state I am in, to be content ... ."

That is a brave statement. But one that carries great power, and shows incredible spiritual and emotional maturity given all that Paul had endured!

I read it as a word of encouragement, for it offers hope that contentment in any circumstance is achievable through Jesus Christ.

It is a statement I pray that I will one day be able to make truthfully. I can say truthfully, it is not one I can yet make.

I do not desire suffering, but I have come to accept that there is purpose in the pain.

Very few of us will endure true persecution for our faith, (not to be confused with the "persecution" that so many in the Western world tout as such) or times of immense and prolonged suffering, and yet we still want to pull the proverbial covers over our head, and cultivate our comfort, hoping to delay our rude awakening until we feel as though we're ready for it!

We so love to feel as though we're in control!

The problem is: Character growth and development are rarely formed in comfort, and they are most certainly never tested there.

If you've been seeking a life of continual happiness, perhaps it's time to start prayerfully asking for and embracing lessons in contentment. And yes, as Paul writes, it is another state of being, more accurately a state of choice that must be learned not simply achieved because it's your right.

Perhaps, when we begin to embrace these stages of discomfort, contentment will begin to grow as we assess what little we really need in order to find deep joy.

Happiness, we will discover, was only ever a poor substitute for divine joy and a contented spirit. 

Adapted from Perfectly Flawed, a blog by Bek Curtis.

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