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To Be Or Not To Be Happy

July 17, 2010

A few days ago Anne posted a comment about happiness in response to one of my posts. I started to reply but decided the issue is worthy of a post all its own. Anne expressed frustration with all the “pithy quotes” about happiness to be found throughout the world of social media, e.g. “If we just have the right attitude, then we’ll be happy.” I agree with Anne; that lie has been exposed time after time after time. So why does it keep circulating? Because people are desperate to believe it, and because we’re wired to receive it (happiness). Allow me to elaborate.

Imagine a Supreme Being that is the epitome of love, peace, and joy; the Author and Creator of Everything Good. The Supreme Being decides this perfect love and joy ought to be shared, and so creates a world like the one we live in today. Mini-Me is created and given the power to choose whether or not to share in the Creator’s love and joy. This is important, for if Mini-Me did not have the power to choose, if love and joy were forced upon her, then that love and joy would lack the fullness experienced by the Creator. It would be imperfect; and the Omniscient, Omnipotent, Omnipresent Supreme Being is incapable of imperfection.

Next the Creator establishes a few rules and regulations for Mini-Me to follow. These rules are not unreasonable, and are in fact necessary if Mini-Me is to experience the fullness of the love and joy intended by the Creator. All goes well until the day that Mini-Me wonders if maybe there isn’t something better than this pure and perfect love and joy. She steps beyond the boundaries of the rules and regulations, and thus becomes less than perfect. The absolute love and joy intended by the Creator cannot be sustained in the presence of imperfection. And so Mini-Me — and every Mini-Mini-Me that follows — is banned from the Creator’s presence.

If that was the end of the story, it would be a pretty crappy ending. I like the way Don Miller defines “story” in A Million Miles In A Thousand Years: “a character that wants something and overcomes conflict to get it.” The Supreme Being in this story wants to share pure and perfect love and joy, but there isn’t anyone to share it with. So Mini-Me is created, and for a while the Creator’s desire is fulfilled. But this is just a foreshadow of the greater conflict, when Mini-Me turns away from the Creator and loses access to the pure and perfect love and joy for which she was created. Instead of living in the presence of the Creator, Mini-Me now lives in a world she is not designed to endure. This breaks the Creator’s heart; something must be done to resolve the conflict and redeem Mini-Me.

And that is what makes the story of the Redeemer, Jesus Christ, the Greatest Story Ever Told.

I won’t get into the details of that story here. If you’re curious you can read it here. I offer the above to illustrate why I believe we are living in a world we weren’t designed to endure. God meant for us to experience pure love and joy, and that can only happen if we have the option to choose whether or not to share it. Somewhere along the way each of us has turned away to look for something more. As a result, we will never be truly happy on this side of eternity; and I believe this truly breaks God’s heart.

The good news is that the conflict between us and God can be resolved, and then we’ll know true happiness on the other side of eternity. For all eternity. If we choose it.

In the meanwhile, we’re stuck here. Fortunately there is great beauty to be found in God’s creation, and in what we, His creatures, create in the way of art. The depth of emotion I feel when I observe a great painting or see a great dancer or athlete or hear great music —  the way time stands still when I’m in the right place at the right time doing the right thing for the right reason — these are sneak previews of what is to come on the other side of eternity. I don’t completely comprehend it, especially in light of the pain and suffering that surrounds us. But I do have hope for the future, faith in the Author of the Story, and a burning desire to live out my purpose in the Story.

I have seen the burden God has laid on men. He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the hearts of men; yet they cannot fathom what God has done from beginning to end. I know that there is nothing better for men than to be happy and do good while they live. That everyone may eat and drink, and find satisfaction in all his toil—this is the gift of God. I know that everything God does will endure forever; nothing can be added to it and nothing taken from it. God does it so that men will revere him.

Ecclesiastes 3:10-14

One Comment leave one →
  1. July 18, 2010 12:52 am

    You did a great job illustrating the story of our creation and salvation.

    Further, you say, because of our condition that resulted from sin entering the world, “as a result, you will never be truly happy.” Exactly.

    Your original post was fantastic too. I love the way you talk about the REALITY of life rather than what people imagine life can and/or should be. Or what they hope it will be. Often that hope is based in a person’s rejection of the truths you present here. They reject the reality of sin in this world and therefore believe happiness in this life is achievable.

    When you understand the truth of sin and its reality, then you understand that the point of this life isn’t achieving happiness, but rather achieving fulfillment, through the fellowship we can have with God, however imperfect, and through serving others (epecially our family).

    Given that I have a number of family members who have gone “home” before me…and many of them through early and tragic deaths, I truly look forward to the day when I will shed this temporary habitation for one that will never experience pain, sorrow, or separation from God or my loved ones.

    By the way, some fantastic songs that describe this wonderful reality that we look forward to: “Grave Robber” by Petra and “Heaven is a Long Hello” and “Waiting for the Day” by Billy Sprague. Billy Sprague wrote a whole album after his fiance, Rose, was killed in a traffic accident. Worth a listen.

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