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by Jacob Ninan
It is in the nature of man to seek for happiness in life, but one reason for great frustration is that the happiness we desire seems to be always ahead of us, just eluding us, or that when we finally get it, happiness never seems to last long. When we think we have it, something comes along and happiness gets thrown out. Different people start out to find happiness in different ways. Even when they put happiness as their primary goal, their understanding of the way to get there is set in their mind as making more money, making a name for themselves in different areas of their choice and expertise, accomplishing things that can serve as monuments to their greatness, attaining to a powerful position among people, etc. We cannot deny the fact that these things do give us some sense of value or greatness for some time. But they all ultimately come to an end. Other people can overtake us, we can get bored with what we have or what we have become, or we may even lose what we had due to some unexpected developments. When we reach a goal after a long period of struggle, we naturally fall into the race to achieve the next higher goal. We never become satisfied, and we always want to have more.
Happiness is strongly related to circumstances, and circumstances have a habit of changing unexpectedly. The world thinks of happiness as a feeling when everything is fine and there are no problems facing us. With this kind of understanding of happiness it is easy to see why happiness is very transitory. If we have happiness as our goal, our attempts at all times will be to find suitable circumstances or to change our existing circumstances. Even when these attempts appear to succeed for a time, it will not be long before we have to try and change them again. And so it goes on.
People who seem to have made a huge pile of money or made it to the top of their piece of the world appear to be happy, as far as we can see. But then suddenly we hear about some of them committing suicide, going for divorce, or being asked to leave their position. Many of them spend their time and efforts trying to reach their goals and then spend the rest of their lives trying to overcome the sicknesses which they have brought on themselves as a consequence of their fast paced lives. Some of them discover that all their accomplishments seem hollow, and conclude that there is more meaning in helping other people who are less fortunate than themselves than in accumulating things for themselves. This all goes to show us that meaning in life is not in things (Matt.6:25). Malcolm Muggeridge said, “Happiness is like a young deer, fleet and beautiful. Hunt him, and he becomes a poor frantic quarry; after the kill, a piece of stinking flesh.”
What is more pathetic is when those who know God and who have caught a glimpse of the life that He has prepared for us still get caught in the rat race for more, bigger, greater. Many of them give up the sinful pleasures of this world, but do not seem to be able to put away this desire to make it big, albeit in the world of Christian service. The desire to do more for Christ many times gets translated into more for themselves. Then the inevitable jealousies, frustrations, backbiting, scheming, and manipulations follow. The nature of this kind of race itself precludes the possibility of lasting happiness.
Rick Warren, author of The purpose driven life, describing himself as not being generally an ‘upbeat’ person but melancholy, formed a definition of joy as, “Joy is the settled assurance that God is in control of all the details of my life, the quiet confidence that ultimately everything is going to be alright, and the determined choice to praise God in every situation.” In other words, joy is based on the strength of our relationship with God. It makes sense when we realise that we are not exhorted to rejoice always with regard to people or circumstances because they are unpredictably variable, but to rejoice in the Lord always (Php.4:4). It is the fact that God is trustworthy, always with us, and sufficient for all our needs that gives us stability in our mind and joy. Isn’t this worth pursuing after?
“They alone are truly happy who are seeking to be righteous. Put happiness in the place of righteousness and you will never get it,” said D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones. Joy and happiness do not come automatically to Christians just because they decide to have them. The way to enjoy them is to keep an increasingly closer relationship with the Lord where we put away things in our life that are displeasing or dishonouring to Him and realign our goals towards such things that are part of His dream plan for us. “No man should desire to be happy who is not at the same time holy. He should spend his efforts in seeking to know and do the will of God, leaving to Christ the matter of how happy he shall be” (A. W. Tozer).
The better we know our God and the closer we walk with Him, the greater will be our peace, confidence and joy. Jesus was not at all using an exaggerated form of speech when He said categorically, “Seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you” (Matt.6:33). The godless man thinks it is foolishness to seek for what he considers to be some abstract, intangible thing instead of the things that he can understand and experience in the here and now. But those who have yielded themselves to God believing in Him can ‘understand’ even the things that are not seen. Such things become even more important to them than the things that are seen here now.
If our ‘faith’ does not bring about a change of heart and mind (Rom.12:1,2), but only physical healing or prosperity, we must wonder if we really belong to the kingdom of God. What we experience may only be the rain and sun that God gives even to the wicked (Matt.5:45). The genuine fruit of the Spirit is something that He gives only to His sons and daughters (Gal.5:22,23). It is the work of the Holy Spirit in us that enables us to endure in our joy and peace even in the midst of turmoil outside and even inside.
It would be naïve to assume that a mature Christian would be a stoic who does not get perturbed at all no matter what happens. The apostle Paul testified, “For we do not want you to be unaware, brethren, of our affliction which came to us in Asia, that we were burdened excessively, beyond our strength, so that we despaired even of life” (2Cor.1:8). At times he was “perplexed, but not despairing” (4:8), and even depressed (7:6). But in the face of everything that tried to bring him down, he would ultimately “overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us” (Rom.8:37). In other words, even though disturbances caused some flutter in his mind and heart at times, he would ultimately come to rest in his joy and peace in the Lord.
It is important that our hearts are right with God, and that we are walking with Him in an increasingly closer and more intimate relationship. Times are going to become tougher and pressures on our heart and mind greater. We want not only to survive the attacks, but also to conduct ourselves in such a way that would honour our Lord and Saviour in our circumstances.
-- Editorial in the Light of Life magazine, March 2015
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