Have you ever finished a good book wishing there was more to the story?—I know I have. Have you ever watched a movie and left the theatre unsatisfied? Perhaps after a good meal you’ve wished there was more to come.
Such things clearly provide us with momentary pleasure, but our desire for more points to another issue—our unhappiness:
- Why are we so unhappy in our society today?
- Why do so many people in Australia suffer from some type of depression?
- What are we doing wrong?
- Are we confusing pleasure with happiness?
Many feel that their personal happiness rests upon having one pleasurable moment after another. They feel that they simply aren’t happy unless each moment is filled with pleasure. We need to stop thinking this way and look at happiness in a different way. Happiness does not depend merely upon having pleasurable moments, but rather upon whether or not we are content or satisfied with the moments that come our way. In other words, I don’t have to feel pleasure from something in order to be happy.
Pleasure and Happiness
Is this a strange concept to you? The word ‘pleasure’, what does it mean? It has the idea of enjoyment due to momentary gratification. The word ‘happiness’ however, contains the idea of a prolonged state of satisfaction and contentment associated with one’s overall circumstances. We ask, “Are you happy?” and we mean by that question to know about one’s general conditions in life. We ask, “Are you pleased?” and mean whether one is satisfied with a particular item.
But really, happiness is a state of mind. We can be happy regardless of the situation we are in. Is that really possible? The Apostle Paul said in Philippians 4:4, “Always be glad because of the Lord. I will say it again: Be glad.” We can control our state of mind by focusing upon happy things. Pleasure, however, is a feeling experienced in the body. The Proverbs writer said, “Those who live only for pleasure will lose all they have” (Proverbs 21:17).
As simple as it sounds, happiness rests upon contentment. Paul tells Timothy in 1 Timothy 6:6, “And religion does make your life rich, by making you content with what you have.” One blessing that comes from contentment is an indescribable happiness which cannot be easily taken away. On the other hand, pleasure is often driven by boredom or being discontent—we seek for something to stimulate our senses so as to create bodily pleasure. We simply end up feeling unsatisfied after the experience has ended, or craving more in an addictive like behaviour.
Solomon experienced this as we read in Ecclesiastes 2:1-11:
Hope 103.2 is proudly supported by
I said to myself, ‘Have fun and enjoy yourself!’. But this didn’t make sense. Laughing and having fun is crazy. What good does it do? I wanted to find out what was best for us during the short time we have on this earth. So I decided to make myself happy with wine and find out what it means to be foolish, without really being foolish myself.
I did some great things. I built houses and planted vineyards. I had flower gardens and orchards full of fruit trees… I had more sheep and goats than anyone who had ever lived in Jerusalem…
I was the most famous person who ever lived in Jerusalem, and I was very wise. I got whatever I wanted and did whatever made me happy…I enjoyed my work. Then I thought about everything I had done,…and it was simply chasing the wind. Nothing on earth is worth the trouble.”
Proverbs 14:13 states, “Sorrow may hide behind laughter, and happiness may end in sorrow”. Let us learn contentment if we desire to be happy. The author of Ecclesiastes says, “I know that there is nothing better for people than to be happy and to do good while they live.” He agrees with modern psychologists who now tell us that “Happiness is a cornerstone of psychological wealth…It is when we are feeling positive and energised that we often make the largest gains; we think of new ideas, take up new hobbies, tend to our relationships, maintain our health, and find meaning in life.”