Can we be happy on a long-term basis?
What will it take for this happiness? Perhaps winning the lottery or should I say lootery? Does it take money to make all your cares go away? We could say, “Well it would certainly help!” Yet is that the criteria for happiness? That is, will all of your cares go away and will you then be happy? Will that make you happy? I think you can sense the answer to that is ‘No’; there are several fallacies in that. First, money won’t make your cares go away. It may cause more concern and fear. Second, just because you don’t have any cares doesn’t necessarily mean you’re going to feel happy.
You can take the concepts of money and cares and apply it to any false beliefs you have:
If I was married I’d be happy
If I had a different house
If I could eat whatever I want
If I could drink whatever I want
If I could use drugs
If my spouse changed
If I changed
If I were healthy
If I could travel the world
If I had a different job
If I had my own company
If people would leave me alone
If I wasn’t so alone
Changing our circumstances, financial situation, living location or conditions, friends, work, partners, or whatever else you can imagine… will never ‘make’ us happy on a long-term basis.
The definition of the word ‘Happy’ for the purposes of long-term happiness seems to involve well-being, satisfaction, contentedness, with maybe some peace thrown in for good measure. These are conditions that money cannot buy and that cannot be sustained long-term by outside influences.
In the early days of Christianity, there was a man named Paul who went through a lot of suffering and hardships during his life. There were probably good times but there were a lot of difficult times to offset the good; unjust accusations, people trying to kill him and actually stoning him on several occasions, being misunderstood, running for his life, being imprisoned, no money and nowhere to sleep, being shipwrecked at sea, and on and on it went.
Yet Paul made an amazing statement through all of it.
“I have learned to be content no matter what happens to me. I know what it’s like to not have what I need. I also know what it’s like to have more than I need. I have learned the secret of being content no matter what happens. I am content whether I am well fed or hungry. I am content whether I have more than enough or not enough…”*
The meaning of Happiness in our day seems to involve some situation or event. Maybe jumping up and down when our favorite team wins. But how many people on the street would we have to poll to find even ten people who would say they have long-term happiness and contentment in their life?
The truth of the matter is that we live in a broken world that will never give us long-term happiness or contentment. There is always some situation or some person ruining our good mood. Sometimes we just don’t feel good. So what is the answer – is it even possible?
Paul continues his comments about contentment, giving us an indication of the source.
“…I can do everything by the power of Christ. He gives me strength.”*
This is not a popular message today but perhaps it is one we need to hear. There will always be those who demean Jesus Christ and Christians, twisting His intent into something evil. But that doesn’t eliminate Christ’s true intent: to bring peace and contentment to those who are suffering. A long-lasting, permanent condition made possible by something completely outside of any influence of this world.
That’s a good intent but there’s just one small problem… the cost. To follow Christ is by no means free. He made it very clear that to follow Him meant giving up our ways and thoughts. One of His teachings was about two gates and two paths. Go in by narrow gate and take the difficult path which leads to life. This gate is hard to pass through and the path is difficult to navigate. But it is this persistence in seeking Christ in all things that will lead to long-term contentment and peace.
The Cost of Happiness. It is easy to be happy in a moment of time, only to have it quickly vanish to hidden places we cannot find. Yet with contentment and peace in life, will we not be happy in any circumstance – no matter the strife?
Of course, if you are happy and content with your life, you are probably not reading this.
* The Bible: Philippians 4
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