Do We Deserve to Be Happy? Nope.

*Quick note: The purpose of this blog is not only to focus on writing, but to transform lives through writing and sharing. I know this will certainly step on toes and if it does, get some better shoes, but keep your ears open.*

I’m not really sure what other cultures believe about happiness, but American culture certainly believes that it is a right. Because of three little words – pursuit of happiness – we cling to the idea that we have a right to be happy all the time. Unhappy with your job? Quit. Unhappy with your spouse? Divorce. Unhappy with your government? Elect people who promise an easier life. Did someone say something that made you unhappy? Run to social media, and heck, even the news to cry about how hateful and unfair it is that someone should dare have a differing opinion!

Here’s the thing though. We don’t deserve happiness. It is not a right. Being happy in life isn’t a given. We are never told we have the “right to be happy”. In the United States we do have the “right to pursue happiness”, but it never says it’s going to happen. More than that, how can I say that I deserve happiness, even at the cost of what God has called me to? Because I’m a good person? Hardly. Sure, I’m nice. I like helping people. But I’m not good. Jesus said, “Why do you call me good? No one is good except God alone.” (Luke 18:19) [Small digression here: This isn’t Jesus saying that He isn’t good, or isn’t God. This is Him stating something all the hearers knew: only God is good. This is Jesus saying that they are recognizing that He is God with their words.] Does that mean we should only be stern and morose, moping around saying “Woe is me!”? Absolutely not! There is joy in this life! There will be thousands of happy moments. These moments are part of life, however,  undeserved. Sadness, happiness, and rain come to wicked and righteous alike.

As Christians we are called to something much more important than pursuing our own happiness: love. We are called to love others. Not with the superficial “I’ll say hi on Sunday mornings” kind, but with the sacrificial love that Christ showed us. Paul David Tripp highlights in his book, Instruments in the Redeemer’s Hands, that “relationships are not primarily for our fulfillment. On the contrary, relationships between sinners are messy, difficult, labor-intensive, and demanding, but in that, they are designed to result in God’s glory and our good as he is worshiped and our hearts are changed.” Loving people is not on a case by case basis, it is a conscious choice to make loving people a lifestyle.

This lifestyle does not lead to the road of “prosperity.” It is the road of obedience and blessing. This road is rocky and narrow, full of hardship and tears. But Psalm 126:5 tells us that those who sow tears will reap songs of joy. A life worth living is hard work. To have a full life, we must fill it with meaningful relationships, not staying focused on ourselves. Pursuing our own happiness means sacrificing others – the exact opposite of what we are called to do! On the last day of your life, what will it matter what job/house/car/clothes you had? It’s all staying here. And once you are gone, will people remember you as a bulldozer, someone willing to do anything to stay happy no matter the cost to others? Or will people remember someone who loved well?

 

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Take Back Your Social Life & Community

overloadWhat happened to communities? There is an abundance of online “communities” that are supposed to serve as a way to connect to those around us, but very little of it actually creates and nourishes real-life community. We are inundated with social media: Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, Twitter, Snapchat, Google+, and the list continues. All of these are acting as tools for the embetterment of our social lives. The result, however, is that we are trapped in our computers, smart-phones, and tablets while real life is happening around us.

Social media is not the Big Bad Wolf, nor it is the embodiment of evil. It is simply often misused. Imagine trying to serve soup with a slotted spoon. A trying task, indeed. But that doesn’t make the spoon bad. It just means that the spoon was used for the wrong purpose. Social media is meant to be an accent to our lives rather than the entirety. Complaints abound about people paying more attention to their “friends” on social media instead of the friends who are right next to them. Everyone is too busy with having things to share online to have an actual social life. It’s not healthy and it’s not community.

The Oxford dictionary has two basic definitions of community:  1) A group of people living in the same place or having a particular characteristic in common.  2) A feeling of fellowship with others, as a result of sharing common attitudes, interests, and goals.

There are many places that fit the first definition. But what about the second? Where was the last place you felt “a feeling of fellowship with others”? If the answer to that is an online group or an instance from more than a month ago, it’s time to make some changes.

Churches used to be a place that fostered community. People would often have a potluck lunch after the teaching or invite someone to their house to share a meal. Now churchgoers tend to arrive just in time for the service to start and make a run for their cars immediately after with a few nods and waves to acquaintances.

Neighbours, too, were friendlier than now. It used to be that when a new family arrived several neighbours would introduce themselves and even bring food! Today, if a neighbour happens to be spotted in between bouts of busyness they are viewed with a mixture of curiosity and suspicion.

I won’t pretend to have mastered the now ancient art of community building, but I do have a few suggestions for anyone who is ready to change the way they view and live true community.

  • Get to know your neighbours
  • Make friends with people you can meet with – in person- who will share each other’s burdens
  • That new person at church or work, reach out and make them feel welcome
  • Host a game night
  • If you have elderly or disabled neighbours, shovel their driveway or offer to mow the lawn
  • Find a group a people that share an interest or hobby with you

*If you have more ideas of how to build community, please share in the comments. The more the merrier!  And don’t forget to come back and tell us how implementing these ideas helped.*