Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Whatever Makes You Happy…

The pursuit of  happiness has been the justification for so many destructive behaviors and habits in today’s culture.  I’ve heard and used the excuse, “As long as I’m not hurting anyone, I can do whatever makes me happy.”  Through all of the things that I’ve learned over the years, all of the pain I’ve experienced, the trials and tribulations that I’ve walked through; the pursuit of happiness doesn’t always make us happy and we almost always effect the people around us by our behaviors and attitudes, whether they be positive or negative.

As a parent, I can see why we need boundaries, accountability, and restraint in our lives.  My kids want everything that they see, they want it now, and they want what others have.  They think that if they get what they want, then they will be happy.  It's my job to say no to the things that they want, especially if it will cause problems, cost too much money, and have negative consequences. Will instant gratification keep us happy?  What will keep us fulfilled and content?  One of the things that most of us think is, “If I just had this one thing, then I would be content.”  Most times, we get that one thing and then we focus on something else that we can’t live without, and this cycle is perpetual and never satisfied.  Money and material things can’t make us happy, and often times the pursuit of wealth causes us to compromise our values and morals.  We can become dishonest, disloyal, and self-serving in our pursuit of money and material things.

The pursuit of happiness can look different for different people.  We naturally want to avoid feeling bad, experiencing pain whether physical or emotional.  We don’t want  to ever be uncomfortable and out of our comfort zone and there are many different ways to numb pain or to avoid pain altogether.  But, one of the most amazing things about pain is that it changes us by adding wisdom to our lives.  Have you ever refused to take someone’s advice that has experienced pain because you thought you knew better?  When things turn out exactly liked you’d been warned, only then can you see the wisdom in the advice.  Pain through trials and tribulations help us to grow emotionally, building wisdom and widening our eyes to the pain of those around us.

Sometimes to get to where God needs us to be, a place where His blessings flow, we need to walk through the fire to get there.  Trials, pain, suffering, and tribulation are necessary to shape our hearts and change us into who God knows we can be.  Without those seasons in our lives we won’t grow, learn, or change direction.  Oftentimes, we can’t see where He is taking us until we are already there and we can’t know the impact that our faithfulness and integrity will have on the world and the people around us.

One of the things that got me thinking about this topic is the obesity epidemic in our society today.   Eating is the easiest thing to do that can take our mind off of pain and suffering.  Certain foods can become addictive and we can feel that we don’t have the strength to stop eating.  Even though you may think that eating doesn’t hurt anyone around you, think again.  We set an example to those around us, people are watching what we do whether we care or not.  We teach our bad habits to our children, families, friends, and acquaintances.  People learn by example and through experience.  On the same track, we can show others positive examples by being responsible to take care of ourselves and those around us.  

I’ve learned that as humans, we try to fill the empty parts of our heart and soul with things, be it money, food, drugs, alcohol, and meaningless/shallow relationships.  There is great joy to be found in healthy relationships with others, our connectivity to people, and our pursuit of God.  One of the things that the bible teaches us, is to surround ourselves with people that are for us, people that will lift us up when we are sad, lonely, in pain, and depressed and people that will hold us accountable for our actions and motives.  We need to purposefully avoid those that only hurt us and lead us to hurt ourselves and others.  Pruning those connections in our lives will make us stronger and more able to bear the things that life brings to us.  Without pain, rainy days, and hard times we can’t appreciate the good things in our lives or realize which people are most important to us.  So stand strong wherever you are and have faith that what God brings you to, He will bring you through.

Those who look to Him for help will be radiant with joy;
    no shadow of shame will darken their faces.
In my desperation I prayed, and the Lord listened;
    He saved me from all my troubles.
For the angel of the Lord is a guard;
    He surrounds and defends all who fear Him. 
Psalm 34:5-7 NLT