Happy, happy, happy. We live in a culture obsessed with the pursuit of happiness. I mean, it’s even in our Declaration of Independence. We want happy marriages, happy jobs, happy kids, happy vacations, happy weekends, and happy Mondays (which rarely come). Although our pursuit seems harmless enough, the consequences can be devastating.
Let me explain.
Our Founding Fathers most likely didn’t mean that pursuing happiness is about personally feeling good regardless of the condition of others. I seriously doubt that they would have advocated happiness at all costs. I’m also pretty sure their definition of happiness would have been far more holistic, as in the sense of “possessing a wellness and fullness of one’s being.”
My quibbling is not with our American forefathers and foremothers. It’s with what our culture has done with the priority of pleasure. If happiness is defined as personal pleasure or the absence of discomfort or pain, we are, in fact, denying ourselves a genuine pursuit of wellness and fullness.
A whole, healthy individual is one who endures the struggle, processes through the pain, and grows as a result of conflict. Seeking happiness through the absence of pain only leads to a hollow shell of personhood. Soren Kierkegaard once wrote, “Happiness is the greatest hiding place for despair.”
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not suggesting we pursue pain instead of happiness. That’s called masochism (self-harm) and sadism (harming others). No, what I am suggesting is that true happiness is not the avoidance of pain but growth through pain.
Oswald Chambers taught us, “When God gets us alone through suffering, heartbreak, temptation, disappointment, sickness, or by thwarted desires, a broken friendship, or a new friendship—when He gets us absolutely alone, and we are totally speechless, unable to ask even one question, then He begins to teach us.”
And He’s a pretty good teacher.
You may be experiencing a lot of pain right now. Confusion. Chaos. Disruption in your life. If so, don’t see this as God’s punishment or absence in your life. We live in a fallen and broken world, but God can use that fallenness and brokenness to shape us into whole, healthy people conformed to the image of Christ (Romans 8:29).
Here’s my challenge for you: Don’t just GO through COVID, GROW through COVID. Open yourself to God’s work in your life, so that your pursuit is of Him, which ultimately will lead to your happiness, wholeness and health.
“We rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope” (Romans 5:3-4).