To be happy or not to be happy?

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I’ve been asked to be a guest on a blog.

So I’m testing it out here first:-)

The topic is to write in 500 words or less about  how to become more happy. (or if that should even be a goal…)

I’m not good at math Joe, so maybe you should take what you want or cut what you want, either way it’s a good question?

The question is in which? How do I or how does someone become more happy? Or should that even be a goal? Is that a trick question? Depends who you ask… Or maybe appropriately it’s more about when you ask…

When I just jump in to the idea of happiness, I think of camp. I remember Carpet Ball (Did you ever play that?), Tether Ball, going to chapel (It was a Church Camp), I think of camp “crushes”, I think of how this gave me a picture of Jesus as something I never could imagine, and still barely can: a picture of Jesus as a friend.

I remember that’s when the switched happened. Where religion went from this very impersonal, rigid thing, to this idea that Jesus could be my friend. Even thinking about it now, I can remember how that made me happy. Truly.

But some of the things that I grew up in, the hell that it was at times, the occasional nightmares at times…well, those didn’t make me happy.

My wife makes me happy, or brings happiness, or joy or what have you…I’ve got some of the best friends a guy could have. Heck, if you really have one good friend. Someone that really knows you, tells you how it is, makes you laugh, and shares in the pain with you, you’re a lucky man..or woman:-)

I expect when you hear the word “happy” you think of what I’m thinking right now. The smile of a child, a sun shinny day, a flower, love. Or maybe it’s something that rings true in how you are wired. Maybe it’s movies, roller coasters, lobster, exercise, adventure, books, music…or maybe it’s something that has enslaved you like money, control, ego, lust, movies, roller coasters, lobster, exercise, adventure, books and music. It’s not just a negative list that can enslave, and force you to bow to it and to worship it…it’s sometimes the things in our lives, that can sneak up and rob us as much life as the negative things, or the sinful things if you prefer. It may be whether you prefer or not.

Happy is tough. Don’t you hate it when your having a crappy day and someone says, “Cheer up.” Do you ever want to slap them? I do. And yet there something that’s lovely about encouragement, support, helpfulness, graciousness, kindness, gentleness, and compassion, even if my sickly soul isn’t in a place to hear it, if my heart somehow someway is to hard to hear it. Maybe just maybe it has something to do with my own worship of my “happy things.”

The idea of happiness get’s harder for me. Like when I think of one of my best friend who lost his wife to cancer a few months ago. If I asked him this question, I wonder what he’d say? Or if he’d say anything at all. Or my wife’s friend who was just in a serious boating accident, and as I type this is literally fighting for his life.

I visited the 9/11 memorial today in New York. I wonder what the families and friends of all those lost on that day would have to say about happiness. Actually one of the statements made by one of these such people said, “I’ve learned to live without her.” Is he happy? Is that a happy sentiment. What makes him happy? Or should he even pursue it?

Is all hope lost? What’s the balance in this conversation? Or is there a balance?

This might be the point where I rattle on about the difference between happiness and deep joy. I’ve been a Christian for awhile now, and I’ve heard so many sermons on this, I’ve gone cross eyed.

I do believe in the scriptures. I do think there is something true and beautiful in the book of James, “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.

This is beautiful and it sucks. It doesn’t suck because it’s not true. It just sucks when the worst of the worst happens.

Last week my best friend Jesse, called me when he found out about his friend in a coma, and said, I know all the answers right now, but I just want to cry.

Sometimes that’s all there is to say. Sometimes that’s all there is to do. I would agree there is something deeper and seemingly more mature about joy than happy. Happiness from my perspective seems to be more of an emotional thing, and joy at least in the context of that scripture in James, appears to be a matter of faith.

When we face the deepest darkest depths of the brokenness in this world: death, abuse, suicide, cancer, bigotry, sin of any kind…whether it’s a darkness that was thrust upon you or upon yourself and you just find yourself shipwrecked on the rocks of life, and you are beat up, bruised, and bloodied, sometimes all there is to do is : cry. And somewhere in the smallest parts of those tears, I pray there is a little bit of faith, and little bit of considering it pure joy when you are shipwrecked in your small amount of time that you have breath in your lungs…and that faith, those tears, I pray that they would lead you to the only one who could possibly bring you what you desperate broken soul so deeply craves: compassion.

I pray you are lost, or get lost in the compassion of Jesus. This I believe is the only thing that can bring you healing, redemption, and the faith it takes to consider it pure joy when you face those trials.

In closing I’d guess I’d have to say probably neither. I don’t know that I’d chase happiness, or not avoid that experience called “happy”. Let it happen when it happens. Happiness is great. I imagine if you dare to accept my challenge to let yourself be drowned in the compassion of Jesus, well heck, that may just make you happy, even if it’s for a few hours, or minutes. It will be a beautiful time, no matter how long it lasts. But I would warn to make your life an endless pursuit of a feeling like “happy” or you may find yourself walking in circles until you die. Like the one lost in the desert who keeps thinking he see’s water, but it just turns out to be a mirage.

I think in the gospels of Jesus, the call isn’t one to happiness, but literally says, “If you really want to come after me take up your cross”…an instrument of death, is what this was…Jesus asking his disciples (us disciples) to die to ourselves.” I love how Rich Mullins put this, when reflecting on this, “I shouldn’t just die to the bad things in my life, but also to the good things.” Isn’t that where true surrender is? Yet, our culture, even in the Christian culture is obsessed with making our lives “happy”…we even have a doctrine known as the “happy” gospel…or is it prosperity gospel? Which is it again? Doesn’t the Bob Marley Song go, “Don’t worry, Be Happy?”…I like the first part, but I liked it better how Jesus said it, “Don’t let your hearts be troubled, you believe in God, believe also in me”…Or when Jesus said, “Come to me, all you who are weary and heavy burdened and I will give you rest.”


Comments (23)

  1. I love these reflections on happiness man. It is for real and difficult.

    When I went crazy was when I realized the term “blessed” is very close to “happy” in the beatitudes. When you read “Happy are those who…”, my definition of happiness went a little crazy pants.

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