THE ROAD TO HAPPINESS ISN’T REALLY ALL IT’S CRACKED UP TO BE
We seem to spend our lives searching for happiness. When we talk about our kids, we often hear “I just want them to be happy”. When we talk about our spouses, we often hear “She makes me happy”. When we talk about our struggling marriages, we often hear “He just doesn’t make me happy anymore.” If you ask me, I think we’re searching for the wrong thing. Happiness isn’t what we should focus on. We should be on the hunt for joy!
You might ask “Isn’t joy the same thing as happiness?” I’ve asked that question too. What I’ve discovered is that joy and happiness are very different things. To get some perspective, I asked the ultimate authority on all things: Google. 😊 My Google search took me to diffen.com. It’s a website that compares things. Here’s what Diffen says:
is an emotion in which one experiences feelings ranging from contentment and satisfaction to bliss and intense pleasure. Happiness is caused by earthly experiences and material objects.
is a stronger, less common feeling than happiness. Witnessing or achieving selflessness to the point of personal sacrifice frequently triggers this emotion. Joy is feeling spiritually connected to God or to people. Joy is caused by spiritual experiences, caring for others, gratitude and thankfulness.
If we hunt for happiness, we’re only going to focus on the next greatest thing—the latest hairstyle or best tech device, buying the right clothes or overachieving at work. We can do or buy all of those, believe me I have (ask me about my curly perm someday). But in the end, we’re just left wanting more.
When I was still married, my husband and I built a new house. I was so happy. It was a fabulous home. Then, I saw that we had the option to add-on a breakfast room. I’ve always wanted a breakfast room. So, now my definition of happiness had to include the breakfast room. We could easily have afforded it but my husband (now my ex) would not agree to it. He was concerned about finances. So, we didn’t add the breakfast room. To say I was upset was an understatement. For weeks, I’d look at every other house that had a breakfast room and lament the fact that I didn’t. I missed out on the happiness of the new house because I wasn’t happy about the breakfast room. The house wasn’t even finished, and I was unhappy. Whatever happiness I did have was empty happiness, just leaving me wanting more.
Last year, my small group helped out at New City Kids for Shepherd’s Gate’s annual Step Out & Serve weekend. New City Kids is an organization in Detroit that offers after-school programming for local low-income youth. I spent all day cleaning carpets. You wouldn’t think there’d be joy in that job, but I can tell you that the joy I experienced that one day of serving has stayed with me for months. The joy of knowing that I helped make a small difference for kids that I don’t even know is so much more precious than any new tech gadget or whether I have a breakfast room. I was exhausted at the end of the day but it was such sweet exhaustion, knowing I had made a difference.
One true blessing that happened the day I served at New City Kids, was meeting other families. We really connected so I invited them to join our small group at Shepherd’s Gate. They joined shortly after that and it’s awesome to see how God worked through that serving event to connect us as members of God’s family.
That day brought me closer to God too. I knew I needed to be there that day. I knew I needed to do whatever was asked of me, even cleaning dirty, smelly carpets. In humbling myself, I opened myself up to hear God’s direction and to trust Him more.
It took me a long time to realize that if I just chased after happiness, I’d live a hollow, unsatisfied life. It has been a process, but each day I try to focus on joy instead of happiness. Don’t get me wrong, when I come home from shopping having just found the perfect pair of shoes, I’m happy. Really happy. But that happiness only lasts for a while. When I come home from a day of helping others, I have such a deep, abiding joy that sustains and fills me.
What direction is God pointing you in today?
When you are searching for the latest shoes, that fancy car, or working a million hours at work to climb the corporate ladder, stop and ask yourself “Will this make me happy or fill me with JOY?” I think you know the answer. Fill yourself with joy this year by getting involved in a bible study, joining a life or social group or serving others.