Achieving Happiness - Should We Manage Our Expectations? (Article 19-13)
As soon as we became aware of the world and ourselves in it, we began to formulate expectations on ourselves, others, and circumstances. At the core of these expectations, whether conscious our subconscious in nature, is our desire to be happy – being in a state of contentment which, in turn, brings peace and rest to our lives.
Measuring Happiness. As we journey through life, we seek external markers to gauge our state of happiness. These markers typically fall in three (3) main areas: money, family, and relationships. Yet as Christians, we know that these markers shouldn’t be measures of fulfillment. In reality, almost all the causes of our frustration, anxiety, suffering, and pain come from not measuring up to the external markers we use to gauge our happiness, and more importantly, our self-worth. In fact, psychological studies have consistently shown that earning more money, beyond feeling fairly comfortable, doesn't lead to greater happiness. The truth of the matter is that seeing ourselves in terms of wealth, possessions, status, relationships and career success is selling ourselves woefully short—our inner potential is not determined by genetics, but rather is determined by our spiritual relationship and connectivity with God (by way of Christ and by means of the Holy Spirit).
The Source of Our Expectations of Happiness. In my last article (Article 19-12: “God’s and Man’s Love Connection”), I talk to the Holy Spirit being the “glue that holds the fabric together”. When God created the first man (Adam) in His image from dust (Genesis 2:7), a lifeless body laid on the ground. God knelt down over Adam’s lifeless body, and “breathed” into his nostrils and in an instant, Adam came to be a living being. What is important to recognize is that God, by way of His Spirit (The Holy Spirit), breathed Himself into man and took residence in man’s soul. In an instant, man was not only created but was in the beginning, “one with God.” Man has "creaturely" life, but with the infusion of the Holy Spirit in man, he is more—a living being with intelligence, the power to govern his actions, not by instinct, but by memory, by conceptualization and thinking spatially. In sum, God shows very clearly that, as we are being made in His image and according to His likeness, we are powerful and with this power, should have great life-based expectations; however, without the Holy Spirit (which is the Spirit of Christ), we are a pale representation of what we can be. Yet, even a state of spiritual bankruptcy, we are endowed with powers that lift us so far above the animals on earth that we can have dominion over them.
Measuring Our Expectations of Happiness. What we expect from life is crucially important, but how is this measured? I can’t answer how we should measure our level of fulfillment, but I can provide some thoughts to what we should consider measuring. We should strive to measure how well we are expanding our awareness of and feeling God’s true nature – that being His nature of unconditional love for us. We should measure how well we are living to achieve a higher vision of spirituality – that being our oneness with God by way of Christ. We should measure our commitment to seeking the truth in all things, including the truth about our ourselves, by way of God’s Word – for God is the Word and the Word is God and with it, the power of God is available to us all. Finally, we should strive to measure whether we live for a higher purpose which extends beyond what we desire for ourselves – for to give of ourselves to others is to love God and with it, glorification of who He is now and eternally.
The “Damaged Us is the Best of Us”. In our quest to meet our expectations in life, we eventually arrive as damaged goods – bruised, scarred, disenchanted, and in more severe circumstances, depressed and despondent (loss of hope and spirit). We fall short in achieving level of wealth we desire, or failed in our expectations in raising a family, or failed in our expectations as it pertains to our relationships. We come to a point of feeling we’re ruined in God’s eyes or in the eyes of others. The hard-to-believe, but beautiful truth is that that the “damaged us” is the “best of us”, for most of us that have been or are broken are given the opportunity to find the truth. That truth is that Christ is the light and the way to happiness, and there is no worldly gauge that can be applied to measure this happiness, for it does not exist in the world but only in the Father. Broken as we may be, we are as precious to our heavenly Father as we have ever been, and He uses every inch of our heartaches, failures, or regrets to make us more of what He created us to be and to give us more of what He created us to enjoy — Himself. The question that remains is whether or not we accept the said truths when the opportunity(ies) is presented.
As Believers, Our Expectations Can Be and Should be Great. In Christ, our expectations can be realized. In Him our expectations can and should be great. We are more than earthly creations that roam the earth. We are made in God’s image and according to His likeness and by way Christ are made righteous in the eyes of God. And when we pass from this world to the next, we will not be mere observers of God’s thrown, but rather participants. See, we should have great expectations of happiness; however, until we come to accept the truth that happiness can only be found in a spiritual realm and not by way of the world, our expectations and potential can never be realized. To believe otherwise is a lie.
God gave us Christ as wisdom for our foolish, righteousness for our sins, sanctification for our brokenness, comfort for our loneliness and redemption for our fear. In Christ, there’s no circumstance facing us that He’s not giving us His deep and unconditional love and with it, freedom and joy.
We must only believe by way of faith.