Living in America - How is it Possible to Be Unhappy? (Article 20-4)
In the ministry, and life in general, I (as I suspect we all do), meet many unhappy people in our country. We meet many having unhappy marriages or unfulfilling relationships. Others are disappointed or upset with their children, parents, employers, and friends. Still, others are unhappy with themselves because of failure or problems they can’t seem to overcome. Well, the typical response I hear most saying is “that’s life.” But is it really? To believe that we’re to accept the cards we’re dealt without understanding why we have the hand we do suggests God is okay with us being unhappy. And, that our call is just to “push through” life, the problems it brings, and to accept “it is, what it is.” I don’t buy-in to this line of thinking, nor should you.
What Are We Missing? How is it possible, especially as Americans having so much, be unhappy? In asking this question, I don’t intend to distract or take away from people who have real problems, but rather those who seemingly have more than most would ever hope to have in life – healthy children, nice car, beautiful home, extra clothing, plenty of food and variety, entertainment, excellent medical care, and the latest technological toys. The even more materialistically filled lives have summer or lakefront homes, boats, recreational vehicles, and vehicles for every event. Even those that we deem to live impoverished lives have more than the majority of people do in third-world countries. So how is it possible to have so much, yet be so be unhappy, and even depressed? It seems that the more we have, the duller our lives become. We constantly remain on the prowl looking for that next exciting moment. You know, that one special moment that we find a state of lasting contentment, but can never seem to find. Is there something that we don’t understand or are missing? The answer is, “yes.” We’re likely missing our Christian call to live a spiritual (not worldly) existence – a life that seeks to nurture our soul rather than our flesh.
Our Christian Call. As Christians, our call is to live a spiritual life that doesn’t focus on our fleshly desires, but rather those things that nurture and feed our soul. In so doing, we must choose to keep the “self” off the throne of life and put Christ in its place. We must also be prepared to accept that the world does not understand this kind of life. The world finds spiritually-focused Christians who abandon the world’s thinking and ways as foolish and folly. The idea of opting to follow the way of the Cross, and giving our lives to the Lord - a life of surrender, suffering, and sacrifice - makes no sense to the world. The world believes that technology and self-help books provide the answers to our woes and the path to happiness.
World Views Shouldn’t Matter. The world views our call to give up our life in order to save it as irrational and illogical. But to the Christian, it makes all the sense in the world. We believe that giving up our life for the Lord results in not losing it but rather saving it. We know too that to serve the Lord, we must do so from a position of surrendering, sufferance, in concert with daily discipline and service – for we believe what Jesus teaches us, “If anyone would come after Me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow Me.” (Luke 9:23). We must continually remind ourselves that efforts to seek a self-fulfilling life by way of the flesh yield nothing meaningful and that it is only by way of self-denial and the ways of the Spirit can we find fulfillment, happiness, peace, and rest.
Prescription for Happiness. So, how are we to implement Jesus’ prescription for happiness, for at the core of His words is “death to the self.” To most, and even to many Christians, this is an unpopular concept and is counter-intuitive to what we think should be our path in life. But we are to remember, that if we are to be like Christ, we are to to understand that taking up the Cross means more than having to endure a little irritation. Taking up the Cross means to execute a mandate, and with it, being prepared for rejection, persecution, sufferance, and even death. After all, did not the man who took up the Cross for us experience and endure the same? We cannot admit we are to be like Christ and then live a life that is contrary to His own example and calling. To do otherwise is to live a life of contradictions , lies, and deceptions.
Our Christian Call. Our call is to turn away from our proud efforts and goals of self-fulfillment by way of the flesh. We must die by first admitting we are sinners and will always be sinners, and with it recognize God’s loving mercy and the need for Christ in every aspect of our lives. We must see ourselves like the tax collector instead of the Pharisee described in Luke 18:9-14 – “for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.” Second, we must, on a daily basis, repudiate a self-centered life. We do so by way of the Holy Spirit's power, and with it staying focused on Christ’s two great commandments: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength. The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself. There is no commandment greater than these.” (Mark 12:30-31). How much happier we all will be when we come to realize and accept that our call is to love and do so without conditions or expectations of receiving anything back. We do so because we know it pleases our loving Father and those He loves.
Conclusion. It is only by giving up the “self” and to live by way of Christ’s commandments of love can we find the happiness (peace and rest in our happenings) we have sought all our lives, but seems to have always eluded us. For our purpose and direction, must be one of reconciliation with God, and with it being one with Him.