The Pursuit Of Happiness
Those of you from the United States are very familiar with the following quotation: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”
If you’re not from the US, or you have forgotten your history lessons from high school, this quotation is from the Declaration Of Independence. Our founding fathers got a lot of things right when they were birthing a nation and I am truly thankful for the freedoms I have and the sacrifices they made to secure those freedoms; however, research has shown that striving for ( or pursuing) happiness is not the best way to achieve it.
In fact, research conducted by the University of California at Berkeley and the University of Denver indicates that pursuing happiness can actually damage personal relationships and lead to loneliness.
My ex told me as we were divorcing that I couldn’t make her happy and that God wanted her to be happy. I believe she was right on both counts. But I do not believe that God wanted her to find happiness through divorce.
There is no way that I could make her happy. I don’t have the power to make anyone happy. I can contribute to the overall happiness or unhappiness of another person by my words and actions but I cannot make someone happy if they are otherwise unhappy.
Dr. Mark Epstein wrote in Psychology Today that happiness is the ability to receive the pleasant without grasping and the unpleasant without condemning.” We tend to think that happiness comes when all sources of displeasure and stress are eliminated from our lives. But that just isn’t true. Dr. Epstein also writes that “as adults we rarely come to terms with the fact that good and bad are two sides to the same coin, that those who make pleasure possible are also the source of our misery… However much we as adults think we have come to terms with the fact that no one can be all good or all bad, we are still intolerant of frustrations to our own pleasure.”
Happiness Comes From The Inside.
We all know people who are able to roll with the punches of life and still maintain a positive attitude. We also know people who no matter how good things are they still want more. So why are some people perpetually happy and some never seem to find happiness?
Those who seem to be happy all the time are usually those who focus more on the needs of others and less on themselves. On the other hand, those who never seem to be happy are often very self-centered individuals.
Does God Want Us To Be Happy?
Does God want us to be happy? Of course he does. He is a loving father and what father doesn’t want to see their children happy. I have certain rules for my children that they don’t always like. They can’t see that by following these rules their lives will be better in the long run. The same is true with God. He wants us to be happy so he has set in place certain boundaries for his children that when followed will lead to a more fulfilled and happy life.
Psalms 68:3 says “But may the righteous be glad and rejoice before God; may they be happy and joyful.”
And Solomon writes in Ecclesiastes 7:14 “When times are good be happy; but when times are bad, consider this: God has made the one as well as the other.”
We live in a fallen world so there will be rough patches throughout life. Our attitude is what determines how we will handle those rough spots.
Paul writes in Philippians 4:11-13, ” for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all things through him who gives me strength.” Paul says that he learned to be content. Contentment comes easier for some than others, but it can learned.According to Paul, the secret to being content is knowing that we can face anything life throws at us through the strength of Jesus Christ.
So What Does Contentment Have To Do With Happiness?
The Mirriam-Webster dictionary defines contentment as “The quality or state of feeling or showing satisfaction with one’s possessions, status, or situation.” and happiness as “A state of well-being and contentment”
What Does This Have To Do With Surviving Divorce?
If we are seeking happiness we will most likely never find it. Many divorced people look for happiness in the form of a new relationship. This rarely works. We can only find true happiness when we learn to be content with where we are. The paradox is that only when you are content being single are you really ready for a new relationship.
This, however, does not mean that we don’t try to improve ourselves or our circumstances. If , for example you need a better job to make ends meet, then find a better job. Contentment is not just sitting back and doing nothing. Just don’t fall into the trap of thinking that a new job, relationship, etc. will make you happy.
If you are unhappy going in then you will soon be unhappy in your new situation.
Consistently unhappy people think the grass is greener on the other side of the fence but when they make it to the other side they find the grass looks much the same. In actuality the grass is greener where it is watered. So take the time to work on yourself. Learn the lessons that God is trying to teach you. Learn to be content and a whole new world of possibilities will open up to you.
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