On the Pursuit of Happiness

Happiness. It’s something all Americans are encouraged to pursue-at any cost.

A recent Google search for “you deserve to be happy” delivered a nauseating number of various inspirational quotes:

“You deserve to be a lot happier than you are.”

“You deserve to be happy. You deserve to live a life you are excited about. Don’t let others make you forget that.”

“Do more of what makes you happy.”

“You deserve to be with somebody that makes you happy. Somebody who won’t complicate your life. Somebody who won’t hurt you.” 

Those quotes are confusing when you’re going through a hard time.  In the past few months, I’ve had problems at work and with Carlos (but THANK GOD, nothing compared to our first 8 months of marriage). I’ve missed the comforts of home the last few months more than I ever did in the previous 2.5 years. I’ve lamented my lack of deep friendships. There’s been days where I’ve wished I was a mom to 4 kids, and days where I’ve wished I could buy  a one-way ticket to Greece, because Greece. And right in the middle of it, my grandma died. As I’ve grieved her, I’ve questioned the decision I made to move so far from my family. I asked myself if this was the life I wanted. I asked myself what I needed to change in order to be happy.

Because surely God wants me to be happy, right? Doesn’t he promise that?

Well, no. He doesn’t. Some of my current discomfort might be because I’m reaping what I sowed (Galatians 6:7-9). Also, suffering and persecution are common themes in the Bible. We should be thankful for trials because they produce joy (James 1:2). This should’t justify complaining or being a grouch or throwing self-pity parties, but the Bible doesn’t promise that the Christian life will be all rainbows and butterflies.

Thankfully, realizing that the pursuit of happiness is empty has made all the difference in the world. Now, I ask God for strength and for help and for patience: when I am mentally exhausted from speaking Spanish, when I miss my family, when I just want Chick-Fil-A for lunch, when I want to have a baby.  I thank God for every meaningful relationship I have in Saltillo: with my elderly neighbors, with the families at CRF, with my in-laws. But I’ve stopped asking Him to change my current surroundings. And you know what? Everything hasn’t magically gotten better. But I’ve felt something growing in my heart, something better than happiness, something that feels a lot like joy, “a settled state of contentment, confidence and hope.”

C.S. Lewis said this, and he couldn’t have said it better:

“Give up yourself and you will find your real self. Lose your life and you will save it. Submit to death, death of your ambitions and favourite wishes every day and death of your whole body in the end submit with every fibre of your being, and you will find eternal life. Keep back nothing. Nothing that you have not given away will be really yours. Nothing in you that has not died will ever be raised from the dead. Look for yourself, and you will find in the long run only hatred, loneliness, despair, rage, ruin, and decay. But look for Christ and you will find Him, and with Him everything else thrown in.”

 

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