I read an Instagram post today that said, “Do whatever makes you happiest”. My first thought was, well that’s a nice sentiment, but then I thought, actually how sad it really is. Are they implying there are levels of happiness, by saying the “happiest”? Are they saying stay away from all things that may be hard or uncomfortable? The more I thought about this sentiment, there more I realized, if that’s all that drives your life, seeking happiness, then your life will be very shallow.
I know that sounds harsh but hear me out. Happiness is a feeling, and feelings come and go. The dictionary describes happiness as showing pleasure, a place of satisfaction or a positive emotion. Which sounds great. I am all for positivity, having fun or being happy, which in itself isn’t bad, I hear you, however this state of being is completely reliant upon external conditions or situations.
By definition this makes it unreliable. Why? Because we cannot always control the conditions and situations around us. For us to feel happiness we are relying upon those conditions and situations to be exactly how we planned or desired. And from my experience, that is a disaster waiting to happen!
I have learnt that being led by my feelings, whether they are healthy or unhealthy feelings, means I am not being led by the Spirit.
Ouch! Yes, that was a hard lesson for me as I am such a feeler personality. If you know me, you’re probably smiling and nodding your head as you know I am a very emotive person. So let me say here, that feelings are not bad, they are real, and we should definitely not deny them. However when we start letting those feelings lead the way, the Spirit of God gets pushed out of the way.
In Romans 8:1 Paul is very clear when he admonishes us to “not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit”. Our feelings are part of our flesh and are God given, but they are not meant to guide our lives or consume our pursuits in life. That is the job of the Holy Spirit.
So how do we combat this lure of happiness that the world so frequently throws our way? What is the opposite of fleeting and circumstantial happiness? True and lasting joy!
I’m talking about the joy that comes from Jesus (John 15:11). The joy that is a fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22) and the joy that is found in the presence of the Lord (Psalm 16:11). This state of being is not circumstantial and is not reliant upon any external situation. It is completely determined by the unchanging and everlasting love, peace and presence of Jesus and His Spirit dwelling within us.
So, what does this joy really mean? What does it look like in my life?
To have this joy from Jesus means I have a calm and settled assurance that God is in control. It is based on an internal belief that God is good and He works all things together for my good (Romans 8:28). Therefore He is trustworthy, and will provide all my needs, whatever comes my way.
Having this joy doesn’t change with the changing seasons of my life. It is based on what Jesus has already done and the victory He has already won!
This doesn’t mean that being happy is wrong or doing things that make you happy is wrong either. What it does mean is that pursuing happiness as a basis or a guide for what you do in life should not be your driving goal.
For me, I want the Holy Spirit to be my guide in life. I want more of the joy of the Lord. For this is the source of my strength (Nehemiah 8:10). I want to pursue the knowledge of the love of Jesus, and I want to abide in that love. I want to recall His faithfulness to all His promises and His peace that passes all understanding.
I know entire studies are written on biblical joy, but for me today, and maybe for you too….lets just take the simple path and pursue the joy of Jesus, and not be lured by the happiness of this world.