Whatever Happened to Happiness?
“And then we go to the store and he asks for another toy,” she said, slicing another pizza fresh from the oven. We were at our friends’ house, all our kids playing – running through bedrooms, bathrooms, up and down stairs – five bodies in frenzied motion. My friend had just been talking about the large collection of Thomas the Train toys her youngest has.
“Of course I buy him one, even if it costs an extra $20.”
My first thought was, Isn’t that spoiling the kids? Then I realized I do the same thing. My son has more Legos than I ever dreamed of having myself. My daughter always asks for another stuffed animal when we’re out, and my wife – God bless her – gives in about half the time.
Aren’t we spoiling our kids? Will this madness ever end?!!!
I bet you’re thinking this is a post about how we shouldn’t give in to our kids’ every request for more and more toys, the latest techno fad, or an extra scoop of ice cream. Sorry to burst your bubble – it ain’t. It’s about being a parent – sometimes good parents and sometimes evil parents. But mostly this post is about being happy.
And with that I want you to think about this.
Whatever happened to happiness? Somewhere along the line it became a dirty word. In our zeal to preach contentment and denounce a “keeping up with the Joneses” materialism, we shoved happiness down the tubes. Worse than that, we made it part of the seven deadly sins. We assign it a seat next to the other works of the flesh.
But it isn’t. It’s far from that. Happiness is a holy endeavor. Let me explain.
Remember that conversation I talked about a few paragraphs ago? The one with the mother admitting she gives in to her kids wants and desires? Yeah, that one. Well, my first response was to shame her for spoiling her kids. Then I remembered a talk I had with my dad a couple years ago.
My dad and I love the St Louis Cardinals. Always have, always will. One summer he decided to splurge on tickets for us – right behind home plate. A dream come true! It was the best time at a game I’d ever had. Halfway through the game I looked up at the nosebleed section. You see, back in 1983 my parents took us to Busch Stadium to see the defending World Series champs. But we were so far up that I think we were closer to the moon than the Wizard of Ozzie.
“Remember when we came here twenty years ago?” I asked my dad.
“Yeah, those seats were terrible. I should have paid the extra money and gotten better seats.”
“That’s okay, dad,” I reassured him. “I know we didn’t have a lot of money back then. And I was content just to be here.”
“That’s not the point,” he replied. “I’ve realized that making moments and memories is more important than saving a few bucks.”
That conversation did something to me. I realized that buying a $20 toy or a $200 ticket won’t spoil my kids. We’re supposed to make memories, and if we do that well then…money well spent. And if the kid is happy, then job well done for this parent.
Now, I can already read your mind. “Chris, you’re crazy! You’re suggesting we spoil our kids! How does that teach them to be content and take care of their money???”
I’m not talking about teaching your kids to be content and take care of their money. You teach kids that by teaching them about…being content and taking care of their money. I’m talking about making your kids happy. And I know God wants us to be happy. Here…look!
9 “Or which one of you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone? 10 Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a serpent? 11 If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!”
Matthew 7:9-11 (emphasis added)
Hey! We’re evil, right? But we still want our kids to be happy. How much more does our father in heaven want us to be happy.
16 “Do not be deceived, my beloved brothers. 17 Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.”
James 1:16-17 (emphasis added)
Everything that is good in your life – that makes you happy – comes from God. Why? Because he wants us to be happy. And if God wants us to be happy, why are we so intent on making God out to be someone who wants us to be sad.
There’s this idea that happiness and joy are two different things. Happiness comes from the root word for “happen,” meaning we’re only happy when good things happen to us. But joy is different. It’s rooted in a desire to just know God and accept anything that comes our way. But to suggest that God only wants us to have joy and not happiness would suggest that God doesn’t want good things to happen to us. And I don’t believe that.
Now, you may point to a passage in Philippians where Paul talks about being content. He is joyful no matter what – whether he has a lot of cash on hand or his wallet’s a little light. But Paul realizes that God is in control either way – and maybe especially when things are going good.
There’s one more verse I want you to look at. I’m just going to put the first part of it here.
3 “Blessed are the…”
Told you I was only going to put part of it here. Jesus goes on in this chapter to list some people who don’t really sound blessed – poor, hungry, thirsty, persecuted. But Jesus calls them blessed. In fact, that word for “blessed” is the Greek word makarios. Anyone wanna guess another translation of that word? Go ahead, it’s not hard. I’ll give you a hint: it’s in the title of this post.
That’s right, makarios can also mean happy! Jesus says, “You guys should be so happy!” He doesn’t mean that they should delude themselves into thinking that they’re happy even when bad things are “happening” to them. He’s saying they should be happy because good things are happening to them. “You have mercy and righteousness and grace! You have the Kingdom of God! You’re going to inherit the earth, not heaven or some other planet – this earth and all the stuff in it. Surprise! It’s your lucky day!”
In that same sermon – the Sermon on the Mount – is where he talks about God the Father giving us good gifts. All we have to do is ask. And when some pastors, preachers, ministers, and teachers dare to suggest that Jesus wasn’t kidding, I see pundits and bloggers come out of the woodwork to say, “Yeah, but!”
Well, I’m just crazy enough to believe Jesus. I’m just crazy enough to think he wants me to be happy. So, I’m going to go ahead and keep believing that and guess what? That makes me happy.
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