But…What If I'm Not Happy?
“Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” This famous phrase found in our country’s “Declaration of Independence” defines the people who inhabit this great land of the United States. In fact, the “pursuit of happiness” is often the main focus of our identity – both on an individual and national scale. There is nothing wrong with wanting to be happy. And there is nothing inherently wrong with the pursuit of happiness. But, the line must be drawn when we exchange the pursuit of joy and contentment in our Lord with the ultimate pursuit of happiness.
This is not a new struggle or topic of discussion, but it is one that we consistently face day in and day out. I was talking with a godly young college woman the other day who asked a question that we all ask ourselves when we think of the future, but hardly verbalize: “What if I’m not happy? What if 20 years down the road I am unhappy in my career/family/life?”
I was amazed at how much I resonated with that question! When we are constantly inundated in America with the message that it is all about happiness, the line between satisfaction in who God is in your life no matter the circumstance and looking for satisfaction in the things of this life tends to get blurred. As I dwelled on the significance of this question, I realized the overwhelming amount of fear and worry that fueled it! Think about it.
The key part of this question is the “What if…” The very question indicates our worry over something where we have no idea what the outcome will be, not to mention the fear of what that outcome might mean for us personally. Most likely there is fear of being discontent, disgruntled, unhappy, and worn out! But I had to stop and think about the focus here. And, wouldn’t you know it…the focus is on me.
While it’s natural to focus on ourselves, it also a sinful tendency for which we need the grace of Christ in our lives. But here’s hope: we have the choice to focus on Christ rather than our own expectations. The ultimate goal in life is not to seek our happiness.
There are tons of passages that we could look at to understand this, but what comes to mind is Paul, and his own struggle with contentment in life. In Philippians 4 he confesses that he’s been miserable and possibly unhappy before, but he found that the strength of Christ was what carried him through. What was his focus? It was on glorifying Christ above glorifying himself! In the beginning of his letter to the Philippians, Paul boldly confesses, “For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain” (Phil. 1:21). There was no other goal of his life except Christ!
As I sat talking with this young woman I heard myself speaking to my own heart. The truth is that no matter where God has you, the ultimate goal is to see His glory made great. And you want to know something else? We often accomplish this goal through the everyday, mundane tasks of normal life. We encounter a few awe-inspiring moments with God on this earth, but most of our lives are composed of the day-in, day-out activities of family, career, school, and relationships.
God knew that His glory could be made great in the mundane, but He also knew that we would be overwhelmed with the threat of achieving our happiness in the mundane. When we worry and fear unhappiness or discontentment, the beauty is that God provides the strength of His Holy Spirit to root us in His purpose and love. The fear of being unhappy is His reminder that we are not our own, and that we are made for something greater than our own happiness. In fact, knowing that we will never be fulfilled during our time on this earth by the pursuit of happiness causes us to yearn for our true home in Heaven with Him.
If you are in a mundane place, do not get discouraged, do not worry, and do not fear. The Lord is moving and the Lord is great! Keep your eyes fixed on the author and perfecter of your faith because with Him, you do not have to fear the mundane and the possibility of being unhappy. You will face these times, but He has already walked the path that you now tread – He knows the outcome and that is enough.
In J.R.R. Tolkien’s novel, The Fellowship of the Ring, the following exchange occurs between the wise, friendly wizard, Gandalf, and the small hobbit, Frodo Baggins, given the task of destroying evil that is bound to a ring he carries around his neck in order to save all of Middle Earth:
“I wish it need not have happened in my time,” said Frodo.
“So do I,” said Gandalf, “and so do all who live to see such times. But that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.”
What will we do with the time we are given? We have classes, jobs, families, spouses, and friends for the reason of bringing glory and fame to our God. Our ultimate goal is to find joy and contentment resting in the knowledge that God has strategically placed each one of us where we are for His glorious purpose.
But the choice is ours. The choice is to find joy in the purpose He lays out for each of us in each of our journeys, finding happiness in the service of the King wherever we are and whatever life brings.