I get it. The common sentiment that “you’re in control of your own happiness” is meant to bring us from a place of learned helplessness to one of responsibility. It’s intended to take our focus off external circumstances, to free us from waiting for the galaxy to align and make us happy, and instead empower us to take charge of our attitudes. On the surface, it sounds like just what the doctor ordered.
In reality, it’s jumping from the frying pan into the fire.
Sure, there’s value in learning to shape our worldviews. It’s life-changing to realize that there are days in which we can stare our stresses and disappointments in the face, say “I can have a good day despite you,” and discover that it actually happens! It’s not every day, admittedly – the meter tends to bounce back and forth – but we do have a role to play. A limited one.
If we are ultimately in control of our own happiness, though, it’s a sentence of death and despair.
We are disasters. When you examine what Scripture says about our nature and our ability to honestly perceive ourselves, we are disasters. I nearly left the house wearing mismatched shoes last Thursday, and the Bible says that’s the least of my dysfunctions. Am I trustworthy with my own happiness? Not on your life. I know myself too well.
How do we really know what will bring us happiness? Most of us are willing to look back on mistakes we made five years ago and admit we were off the beaten track. But we’re still judging from the same vantage point: by what feels right. We may have some more wisdom to aid in the squinting, and that’s something, but we haven’t actually changed positions. It felt right back then, too, though we didn’t know why.
Isn’t anyone starting to suspect that we might not be the best judge in these matters? I’m looking for a better yardstick – something outside myself.
Don’t worry about anything, but in everything, through prayer and petition with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses every thought, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. (Phil. 4:7-8)
I found a great Tim Keller quote recently that basically says that the Bible’s contradiction of your own instincts and desires is actually proof of its veracity – that a Bible that never contradicts you, but somehow always conveniently echoes you, is probably one you should be highly suspicious of. Like spam in your email.
Something outside us, however, can be trusted – especially if its accuracy has been verified historically, as the Bible’s has (despite greatly exaggerated reports otherwise).
I’m glad the people in my life don’t want me to be happy. Well, they do, but they first want me to be holy, because they recognize that one comes before the other. God asks for some sacrifices in return for happiness, yes, but given the sacrifice he made for us, it’s not an unfair request. Without him, it would be a cross for us.
You’re not in control of your own happiness – and you don’t need to be. God is willing to take that over for you. That’s actually a relief, if you think about it.
I’m glad you tuned in today. If you found this post to be of value, please feel free to share it on social media. Thanks a bunch!
“I would only be happy if I just…” and then list what we want. If I had something or a relationship with someone; achieved some position or recognition, some lofty goal, or a milestone. My company uses OKR’s, and it took me over a month to figure out what the acronym meant (Objectives and Key Results). And if we achieve those as a company, then our executives will be happy, our investors will be happy, and our clients will be happy…sure. Why didn’t we see that before? I guess you have to be an executive.
Thanks for the post! Clearly I need to spend more time with the Beatitudes. Maybe I should send a copy of them to my corporate executives…
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That will go over great!
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