Listen: Chris Witts presents Morning Devotions.
By Chris WittsSaturday 13 Jun 2020Morning Devotions with Chris Witts
I was interested in seeing an article about a book by Russ Harris called The Happiness Trap. It sold a lot of copies around the world. Why? Because each of us wants to be happy. But there’s usually a problem—we’re not happy.
Have a look at the last chapter in the book Cinderella. The last verse reads: ”…and they lived happily ever after.” Turn to the last chapter in the book of Sleeping Beauty. The last verse reads: ”…and they lived happily ever after.” And then, if you turn to the last chapter in the book Snow White, the last verse reads: “…and they lived happily ever after.”
We all long for the fairy-tale ending. We’re not asking much: we just want to be able to live ‘happily ever after’. Most people associate happiness with pleasure. You ask people, What do you want out of life? They reply, I want to have fun; I want to be happy; I want to feel good. Those are all different ways of saying pleasure. We use phrases like, If it feels good do it, or If it doesn’t feel good, avoid it. That’s why we as a people spend billions of dollars each year on entertainment. We have pleasure- and thrill-seekers everywhere.
We Cannot Control Our Circumstances
Here’s the problem: Our flesh is never satisfied. It always wants more.
Is that why we want the latest gadgets or electronic equipment, to give us just one more burst of happiness? There are some people who have an ‘Oklahoma’ kind of happiness. Oklahoma is a musical. One song from the musical says:
Oh, what a wonderful morning,
Oh, what a beautiful day.
I’ve got a wonderful feeling,
Everything’s going my way.
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Now this kind of approach to happiness means that people spend an inordinate amount of time, money and energy trying to manipulate their happenings, so they happen to happen the way they want their happenings to happen. But the sad reality is this: There comes a time when you realise that all your skills, and all your time, and all your energy, and all your money cannot manipulate your happenings so they happen to happen the way you happen to want your happenings to happen—and unhappiness is an inevitability!
The Two Meanings of Happiness
Here’s what Russ Harris writes: “What Exactly Is ‘Happiness’? We all want it. We all crave it. We all strive for it.” Even the Dalai Lama has said: “The very purpose of life is to seek happiness.” But what exactly is this elusive thing we are looking for?
The word ‘happiness’ has two very different meanings. Usually it refers to a feeling: a sense of pleasure, gladness or gratification. We all enjoy happy feelings, so it’s no surprise that we chase them. However, like all our other feelings, feelings of happiness don’t last. No matter how hard we try to hold on to them, they slip away every time. And as we shall see, a life spent in pursuit of those feelings is, in the main, unsatisfying. In fact, the harder we pursue pleasurable feelings, the more we are likely to suffer from anxiety and depression.
The other meaning of happiness is a rich, full and meaningful life. When we take action on the things that truly matter deep in our hearts; when we move in directions that we consider valuable and worthy; when we clarify what we stand for in life and act accordingly, then our lives become rich and full and meaningful, and we experience a powerful sense of vitality. This is not some fleeting feeling—it is a profound sense of a life well lived.
The Right Approach to Happiness
If you ask parents what they want for their children, most parents will answer happiness: I want my children to be happy. If a person is happy, it covers a lot of problems in life. We probably all have known individuals who have lost money, a job, or a loved one, but these individuals continue to have a sense of gladness in their lives that seems to get them through. You can lose a lot, but if you are still happy, life continues to be rich and full.
I heard about the father who told his little boy several times to sit down at the table. He finally said to him, Sit down or I’ll spank you. And the boy sat down reluctantly and was silently pouting. And then he finally said to his dad, I may be sitting down on the outside but I’m standing up on the inside. That little boy didn’t realise but he was putting out there a principle that regardless of what’s happening on the outside we can choose how to respond on the inside.
In understanding God made you to be happy in trusting him, everything else will fall into place. We can stop searching for happiness on the outside, and discover peace from him, as we trust him and talk to him.
Roger L’Estrange, the English journalist used to say: “it is not the place, nor the condition, but the mind alone that can make anyone happy or miserable”.
God wants you to be happy—and the only way is by taking notice of his Son Jesus Christ who said, “I have come in order that you might have life, and life in its fullest”.