One morning at the beginning of the summer, I woke up a little grumpy. I know, it's just wrong to wake up grumpy in the summer because as we all know, summer is the very best time of the year. With the sun shining, the birds singing and dreams of romping around outside through the grass and flowers, what on earth is there to be grumpy about? But I was.
Things in my life have been a little trying the past few years and even though I am trying to leave all of that in the past and push on towards good things in the future, I tend to naturally lean a little towards the depressed side. I get tired of the part of me that tends to get a little down so on this particular morning, I heard about something on the morning news that I thought could help.
I learned about a new social media campaign where people were encouraged to post something that they are happy about for 100 days in a row. I thought it sounded like a great idea and would help me to focus on at least one thing each day that made me happy whether I liked it or not! I saw it as a way to create happiness in my life, so I started.
I did pretty good for a while but then I noticed that most of the things that I would post about were events. It was easy to do this in the summer since summers are naturally full of activities of all kinds. But, some days I noticed that I didn't have an activity or event to post about so I had to dig deep and get creative and look at the everyday things that brought me happiness. Even though I have missed a few days here and there I was determined to not let that throw me off track so I caught up when I could.
Even though I thought that it was a valuable thing for me to do, I started noticing that my focus became on my search for happiness instead of naturally reporting on what made me happy. I would think about things that I could do that would be "post worthy" and would manufacture my happiness in order to fulfill my duty for the day, which was to be happy. I started to experience a tension inside of myself between the pressure to feel happy and the authentic feeling of happiness.
Then, one day while walking my dog (which made him very happy by the way-but he's easy) I listened to a portion of a sermon by Tim Keller. It was about true happiness and how we find it. He made some great points and I started to see things a little more clearly.
He pointed out that happiness is not actually something to be sought but is a by-product of something bigger; something more pure. I thought about all the ways that our society tries to seek happiness: buying more stuff, eating more food we enjoy, seeking more entertainment, being involved in more and more activities, having new exciting relationships, etc. It's easy to fall into the trap of searching for that "one thing" that is going to make us happy.
So often, however, we make our own happiness our top priority. It's easy to do and most of the time this desire is what leads to us into making some really bad choices. If we are honest, we pretty much know what is right and what is wrong, and what being obedient to God looks like. We end up conning ourselves into thinking that our happiness is most important and that sometimes we simply need to compromise our own standards to meet that goal. We even try to tell ourselves that it's actually ok with God because after all He wants us to be happy.
This is when we need to examine our hearts and determine whether we are seeking after happiness or are we seeking after God. Of course God wants us to be happy just like we want our own kids to be happy, but it needs to be the result of our relationship with Him and not the condition. Keller says that there are 2 ways to come to God: (1) coming with the attitude of "I owe you everything for what you've done for me but You owe me nothing", or (2) "I will come to you and then you will owe me-a lot". Somehow, we begin to think that above all else, God owes us happiness.
Which attitude we have come to Him with is evidenced by how we handle the tough times that will come. Do we accept them as an important part of our story that bring growth, or do we throw our fists up to God asking Him why He's letting this happen after all we have done for Him? Ouch.
I have been guilty of all of these attitudes throughout my life so even though it's hard to look at my heart in these areas, it's really important. One thing that Tim Keller said that I can really relate to is that if we seek after something to make us happy, such as seeking after a happy marriage, or a happy career, or a happy family, then we will be killed by the anxiety that comes along with striving for that specific result. I can think of quite a few areas where I have had that goal and I'm sure you can too. I've even been working towards a happy summer so there you go! The problem comes when things don't always work out in such a happy way. Then God often gets the blame for our own disillusionment.
Keller says that we need to ask ourselves 2 questions: (1) Is my happiness my #1 priority and I am using God as a way to get there? or (2) Is serving God my #1 priority and if happiness happens, then great! Since I have heard this sermon, my focus has had to switch a bit. I see that I no longer need to seek after the #100 things that make me happy but I can seek after God and then post the sources of happiness that come from enjoying and serving Him.
I think I will continue on with my participation in telling the world what makes me happy each day for the rest of my #100 days, but my quest has become quite different. Keller says that "the less you're concerned about your happiness and the more you're concerned about Him, the happier you'll be. That sound like a much better way to combat grumpy mornings, especially with winter around the corner!
"But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well."