Summary: Happiness blockers: 1. A demanding spirit that insists life should be good and easy. 2. A lack of play. 3. Basing your happiness on circumstances rather than trust.
Singer and diva, Madonna, is one of the wealthiest people in show business and has openly flaunted her self-indulgent lifestyle. A couple of years ago she was asked in an interview if she was happy. Her response was: “I don’t even know anybody who is happy!” Not only was she not happy, but she couldn’t think of anyone who was. If you can’t be happy when you have it all, how can you be happy?
In looking up statistics about unhappiness in the United States, I found these disturbing facts: “Depressive disorders affect approximately 18.8 million American adults or about 9.5% of the U.S. population age 18 and older. Preschoolers are the fastest growing market for antidepressants. At least four percent of preschoolers — over a million — are clinically depressed. The rate of increase of depression among children is an astounding 23%.”
How can this be, in a land of plenty and prosperity? Could it be that our understanding of what it takes to be happy is distorted? Could it be that our values are warped and have been placed on things that do not bring true joy in life? Is it possible we are walking the wrong path and taking the wrong road? Can it be that we are looking in all the wrong places to make ourselves happy? We still think if we just had enough money we would be happy. Someone facetiously said, “Those who say that money can’t buy happiness don’t know where to shop.”
Many people are willing to look anywhere but God’s direction. But psychologist Dr. David G. Meyers, author of The Pursuit of Happiness: Who Is Happy — and Why, has written: “Take care of the soul. Actively religious people tend to report more happiness and to cope better with crises. Faith provides a support community, a sense of life’s meaning, a reason to focus beyond self, and a timeless perspective on life’s temporary ups and downs.” More and more studies are citing personal faith as one of the important ingredients to personal happiness. People of faith have a sense of security about life and the future. They believe that their lives are important to their Creator, and that he is watching over them and helping them through life. They feel that they are a part of the created order and are in contact with the Creator. They have a relationship with God and feel they understand some fundamental truths about life. They have the Scriptures to lead them and inspire them during difficult times. They have a community of other believers who love and accept them, and with whom they share important matters of faith. They have values, meaning and purpose in their lives. Why wouldn’t they be happier?
But what if you have faith, a relationship with God and a supportive community and you are still depressed? What then? There are many reasons and possibilities for a continued struggle with depression and discouragement. Some of these may be out of your control such as a divorce that was not what you wanted or anticipated. It could be a loss of employment which has put you in a bind financially, and you realize you will probably not find a job that pays as well. It could be a serious or even terminal illness that has struck you or one you love. Many things are outside the realm of our control. But do we need to be in control to be happy? Are there attitudes that we can develop that will help us to live victoriously in spite of the prevailing circumstances? Even though we are Christians, is it possible that we are missing some important truths that God wants us to understand?
Let’s look at some of the factors that can block our happiness and keep us from living in joy. One happiness blocker that I would like to point out is: A demanding spirit that insists life should be good and easy. It is possible to be a Christian and believe that God owes you something. If he is on your side, many believe that nothing bad should happen and you will get everything you want. I saw a religious program recently where a woman was singing a wonderful song about faith. But in between the verses she encouraged people to believe God for, “That new car. Your new house. Your healing. Your financial prosperity.” In popular religion today, God has become the celestial errand boy who is supposed to give us everything we want. I remember seeing a televangelist who told the audience to put pictures of the things they wanted on their refrigerators and claim them in the name of Jesus: a Cadillac, a house, a diamond necklace, a husband. And, of course, the implication was that if you sent them some money it wouldn’t hurt your chances of getting those things. We have come to see God’s blessings only as material things. But God has said, “Come, all you who are thirsty, come to the waters; and you who have no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without cost. Why spend money on what is not bread, and your labor on what does not satisfy? Listen, listen to me, and eat what is good, and your soul will delight in the richest of fare” (Isaiah 55:1-2). We are looking in the wrong places for happiness. We are spending money on what is not bread and laboring for the things that do not satisfy.