"The LORD hath done great things for us; whereof we are glad."(Psalm 126:3)
It seems to me that the human race is bent toward being unhappy, and I am no exception. Apart from Christ, every human being is prone to spend his life pursuing one quest. That quest could be phrased in this way: "I want to be happy, and I want everyone and everything to make me happy." Yet it seems that the more this becomes our quest, the more happiness eludes us. In fact, the more happiness becomes our quest, the more depression we tend to bring upon ourselves.
It has been said that happiness is like a butterfly. If we grab for it, the butterfly flies away. If we ignore it, the butterfly may land gently on our shoulders. In other words, happiness comes from forgetting about ourselves. Some say happiness comes from thinking about the happiness of others. There is a lot of truth to this, but what if the person we are trying to make happy isn't happy at all? Where does happiness come from then? Proverbs 27:20 reminds us of how elusive happiness can be. "Hell and destruction are never full; so the eyes of man are never satisfied." I remember thinking I would be happy if I could start school. Because my birthday was late, I could have waited another year to start kindergarten. But I was in a hurry, so I started kindergarten when I was four. I remember being in first grade and looking forward to being a big sixth grader. In sixth grade, I couldn't wait to get to junior high, and in junior high, I couldn't wait to get to high school. I dated a lot in high school, and I was always trying to get more serious in my dating than I should have been. I was always rushing things along, and my dating brought me more negative than positive.
I have a sister Linda who is two years older than I am.
She was always just a step ahead of me. Linda seemed to be having so much fun in college, and therefore, I spent my last two years of high school mostly looking forward to the happiness I would find in college. I also spent much of my senior year of high school longing to meet the person I was supposed to marry.
I met Jack Schaap, the person I would marry, just before I started college. I should have been content and happy.
Yet my sister got engaged and married that same year. I began to long to do the same. I started college early, at the age of 17, and I rushed through college, graduating from a four-year program in three years so I could get married.
I was only 20 when I graduated from college.
However, I married at 19, one year before I graduated from college. I was in a hurry to be happily married. My matrons of honor were my two sisters. Linda was seven months along, expecting her first baby when she walked in our wedding. Being a mother sure sounded like fun. It wasn't long into my marriage before I began to anticipate having a baby. I was married just over a year when I found out I was expecting.
God gave my husband and me a daughter, and then three and a half years later, God gave us a son. By that time we had our dream house and a nice car. We were settled into our ministry, and the "seven-year itch" set in.
Many married couples experience that "seven-year itch," and it is during this time in marriage when many divorces take place. These couples believe that divorce or another spouse will make them happy. Yet statistics tell us that of all those who rate themselves unhappily married, those who stay married rate themselves as happier five years later. Only 60% of those who divorce rate themselves happier five years later.
Since 1960, the divorce rate in America has doubled, and the teen suicide rate has tripled. There are also increased incidences of depression, anxiety, and mental disorders. The use of antidepressants has increased immensely.
Thankfully, I never considered divorce or changing husbands. I know a good thing when I see it, and I knew my husband was one of the best "good things" that had ever happened to me. It was just that even a good husband makes a poor god; even a good husband could not make me happy. Somewhere along the time of my "seven-year itch," I began to realize that happiness is not something you rush toward. Happiness must come from something that is constant and steady.
I got busy rearing our two children and experiencing the cycles of life again through them. They started school, played sports, excelled academically, and even dated some. I enjoyed life through them. Then in my late thirties, I experienced a deep depression. I had never been more unhappy, and I wondered if I would ever be happy again. I remember a series of events that probably caused this depression.
Some of it, but not all of it, was even caused by health problems. But what I remember most about my depression is that it taught me where happiness truly comes from. It's not that I did not have a happy life before this time, but I don't know if I had ever been completely happy.
I know that I have never been happier since that time.
Our daughter Jaclynn loves to put together jigsaw puzzles. I, on the other hand, don't! I love to put together puzzles of 25 pieces or fewer. One of the reasons I love being a grandmother is that I have an excuse to put together children's puzzles again; they are just my speed.
Jaclynn enjoys puzzles of 500 or more pieces. She enjoys searching and searching for that one piece out of 500 that will fill that one strangely shaped empty spot.
Jaclynn's puzzles remind me of my life. I spent years searching and searching for that one piece of happiness that would fill the strangely shaped empty spot in my heart.
We were all born with a God-shaped spot in our lives, and only God can bring the happiness to fill that spot.
Statistics tell us that Americans are three times richer than they were in the 1960s, so it is evident that money is also incapable of filling that empty spot. Where then can happiness be found? Happiness is found in learning about God; God is with me, and God loves me! Matthew 11:28-30, "Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light." Much of my life has not been spent resting, but rather rushing toward the next thing that would bring me happiness.
Parts of my life have been "heavy laden" with depression and the disappointment that the pursuit of happiness can bring.
Now as I have reached my 50s, I have found rest, and yes, I have found happiness. How have I found these? During my depression, I got excited about a fact that I had heard but had never really appreciated. I began to find my happiness in something that is constant: "God is with me!" Woo hoo, girlfriend! I got "lit up"--not by a drug or by an alcoholic beverage--but by the simple truth that God is with me.
To me, the key words of Matthew 11:28-30 are "learn of me." Learning about God takes away the struggle, the depression, the rushing of life and replaces it with happiness. My life, though filled with labor and sometimes filled with heartache, can now be described as "easy," "light," "restful," and yes, even as "happy." Happiness comes from accepting the inevitables of life.
John 16:33, "These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world." The Bible teaches us that tribulations [problems] are a constant in this life. As Americans we somehow feel that our God-given rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness entitle us to never face the death of someone we love, never experience injustice concerning our personal liberty, or never face a lack of total happiness. While freedom does provide for no one person to prohibit these from another, freedom should not give us a sense of entitlement.
The truth is that those of us who are Christians are citizens of another country--a perfect country called Heaven. It is natural that there will be longings in our hearts, as long as we are living on this side of Heaven's veil. Our true happiness comes from a God we cannot see, hear, or touch.
Until we see, hear, and touch God, we will always have unfulfilled longings. If we emphasize our longings instead of the Spirit of God Who is ever present with us, we will be miserable.
We should not try to make our longings go away.
Rather, we should realize that these longings cannot be completely filled this side of Heaven. By finding our joy in what we do have, we can walk side by side with our longings and have rest and peace. What we do have is the presence of the Spirit of God in our hearts, and we have the opportunity to love and to serve Him. That is a constant, and that is where our happiness should come from.
In John 4:3-30, Jesus was tired and plopped Himself at the side of a well. A woman from a race that was an enemy race to the Jews approached Him. Jesus not only talked to this woman, but He asked her for a drink of water. Jesus also told this woman that He would give her water that would cause her to never thirst again.
"6 Now Jacob's well was there. Jesus therefore, being wearied with his journey, sat thus on the well: and it was about the sixth hour. 7 There cometh a woman of Samaria to draw water: Jesus saith unto her, Give me to drink. 8(For his disciples were gone away unto the city to buy meat.) 9Then saith the woman of Samaria unto him, How is it that thou, being a Jew, askest drink of me, which am a woman of Samaria? for the Jews have no dealings with the Samaritans. 10Jesus answered and said unto her, If thou knewest the gift of God, and who it is that saith to thee, Give me to drink; thou wouldest have asked of him, and he would have given thee living water. 11 The woman saith unto him, Sir, thou hast nothing to draw with, and the well is deep: from whence then hast thou that living water? 12 Art thou greater than our father Jacob, which gave us the well, and drank thereof himself, and his children, and his cattle? 13 Jesus answered and said unto her, Whosoever drinketh of this water shall thirst again: 14 But whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life."
We are all thirsty. Every human being thirsts for love and happiness. We "pant" after them, like a dog pants for water on a dry day in the desert. We are filled with an insatiable longing for these things.
Psalm 42:1, 2, "As the hart panteth after the water brooks, so panteth my soul after thee, O God. My soul thirsteth for God, for the living God: when shall I come and appear before God?" When God told the woman at the well that He could forever quench her thirst, He was telling her that He could make her happy. He would give her a happiness that would cause her to never be unhappy again. Yet many of us have the same Jesus Whom the woman at the well found, and we still feel unhappy. What can we do practically to find that thirst-quenching happiness that is alluded to in John 4:3-30? Resist the impulse to find happiness through selfindulgence in good things. We all have an obsessive compulsion to indulge in something to an unhealthy degree when we are feeling unhappy. Most of us are prone to one indulgence more than another. Some examples of these indulgences are: Money Food Material possessions Relationships Popularity Appearance Career Hobby Most of us are tempted to find our happiness, at least at times, in one of these things. While none of these are bad, they make lousy substitutes for happiness.
All of these make awful gods. They cannot fill the God-shaped void in our life. And all of them, taken to the extreme excess, can have damaging effects on our lives.
Resist the impulse to find happiness through selfindulgence in the wrong things.
These will definitely have damaging effects upon our lives and will completely destroy our happiness.
Find your happiness in the fact that God loves you and is always with you. Go to God when you are depressed or have low self-esteem.
Before you make that purchase, eat that dessert, change your hairstyle, go to God. It is acceptable to do all of these things, but be sure you are not doing them to fill a void when depressed or lonely. Go to God first before you indulge, make that purchase, or make that change.
Walk with God daily so that you can find your happiness in Him. Have a plan, a place, and a pleasure planned between God and you.
Decide how much Bible you will read each day and where you will read. Many ministries give out such plans to help Christians in their walk with God. Plan how you will pray, perhaps by writing out a list, by preparing a notebook, or by deciding certain days that you will pray for certain things. Plan what time you will read your Bible and pray each day.
Decide that you will go at the same time each day to a desirable place to meet with your new Best Friend.
Decide to take something with you, such as perhaps a favorite snack or beverage, so that you can enjoy your "date" with your God.
Only a walk with God can get us excited about the presence and love of God; therefore, only a walk with God can make us happy.
The woman at the well accidentally left her waterpot.
She left the thing that she needed to quench her thirst. She was so excited about her newfound Christ that she left behind what she thought she needed to make her happy.
I too have become excited about the fact that God is with me and God loves me. I am leaving behind the idea that I need anything else to make me happy.
I have left behind my depression. God is all I need to be happy. God is all you need to be happy. We will all have longings until we get to Heaven, until we see His face, but we can indeed be happy--today--now--here--where we are--we can be happy!