Friday, May 11, 2012

Redefining The Pursuit Of Happiness

As a rule, I don't spend much time talking about current events. This rule helps me in two ways. First, I don't want people to expect it from me and ask questions like "How do you feel about the election" or "Where do you stand on the subject of ___". I didn't start the Press so I could comment on politics, pop culture, or any other hot button discussion.

Second, staying out of these discussions helps me to stay on topic. Jesus changed my life and God talks to me through the Holy Spirit. It's an utterly basic Christian statement that confuses the hell out of people, even some Christians. So I attempt to use the Press to explain what this means and what I have learned through it.

That said, I'm not completely oblivious to what goes on in the world. I do think about it in private. But even in private, when I talk to God, I ask Him to help me understand how I feel about the situation and I ask Him what He thinks. Typically, we end up talking about the issues behind the issues. The source and not the topic.

There are a lot of intense stories going on in the world today. I could join the chorus of comments I see in my social media feeds, but I don't, you know, want to. I'd rather talk about something more universal than a particular news item. I want to talk about people trying to find happiness, and why it makes for either the best stories or the most tragic news.

When I hear about someone's drug problem, crushing debt, divorce, etc, I feel a weird mixture of sadness and compassion. I feel bad for their situation, but I also feel compassion because I know why they made those decisions. They, like me, like everyone, want to find happiness. I'd say this makes up the driving force behind a lot of the choices we make.

The question is, where do we find our happiness? Is it in our own pleasure and comfort? Is it in a long and healthy life? I think many people would say so. So they try whatever might offer to give them these things. They try marriage, and when that gets hard, divorce. They try vitamins and positive thinking, or they try drugs. They try buying comfort or a particular lifestyle, even if they can't afford it.

To sum it up, they look at where they are in life, see their unhappiness, and decide to do whatever might change the situation. Of course, some of these decisions are huge, and I mean life-altering.

Making these kinds of decisions can be exhilarating, but they're often joyless in the end. Years ago, I used to think I was unhappy because I felt lonely. So I got myself into a few unhappy relationships. When I saw these didn't work, I thought maybe I just needed to commit to someone. That led me to an unhappy engagement. Thankfully, I recognized the insanity before it led to an unhappy marriage.

We've all done this. We continuously try to add stuff to our lives, hoping to find happiness with the next thing. And eventually, we end up like this:

Could this be a parable? Are we like Steve Martin? Do we treat God like Bernadette Peters as we walk away, collecting our empty pleasures? Have our good intentions ruined us and made everyone cross-eyed?

All this has kept bringing Jeremiah 2:13 to mind. God confronted Israel and said, "For my people have committed two evils: they have forsaken me, the fountain of living waters, and hewed out cisterns for themselves, broken cisterns that can hold no water."

God offers us life and wants us to find our happiness with Him. Instead, we've chosen to find these things on our own. From the moment Adam and Eve decided they knew a better way to life and happiness, mankind has lived in misery. Instead of going back to the source of true joy, we dig. And unless we realize everything we make cracks and crumbles, we'll keep digging, hoping to make something out of it.

So as I read all the news that's fit to tweet, I think about what Jesus said in Luke 9:23-25. "If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it. For what does it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses or forfeits himself?"

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