Happy IS Possible!

Last week, someone posted a link to an article entitled “Humans aren’t designed to be happy — so stop trying.”

 

Okay, I normally don’t jump right to “demonic influence” when I see something on the internet because I resist giving the enemy of our souls more credit than he deserves, but this… this gave me a visceral reaction.

 

The author, Beth Daley, starts by misunderstanding the phrase “pursuit of happiness” as mentioned as one of the unalienable rights in the Declaration of Independence as something derived from the fulfillment of our biological and material needs. (Unsurprisingly, Daley does not mention that the document clearly and unambiguously states that these rights are endowed to us by our Creator.)

 

As I have written before, the phrase “pursuit of happiness” is probably far more spiritual in its intent than we’re willing to admit in an age of hedonism, but the people who wrote the Declaration coupled that phrase with “life” and “liberty” in a vision of a people able to not only live quite, peaceable lives earning an honest living, but also working out their own salvation.

 

Daley goes on to site the experience of Abd-al-Rahman III, Caliph of Córdoba in the tenth century, who achieved great military and cultural accomplishments, as well as great power and two harems. He made a point of tabulating the total number of days in his entire life that he was happy and, at some point, decided that they “amounted to precisely 14.”

 

Any Christian who’s read the book of Ecclesiastes could have seen that one coming roughly 1800 years before the Caliph figured out that the acquisition of material pleasures was a vanity and “a chasing after wind.” No big surprise there. Hedonism is a failed path to happiness. 

 

Then Daley goes into how evolution actually designed us to be miserable because, “depression as an adaptation plays a useful role in times of adversity, by helping the depressed individual disengage from risky and hopeless situations in which he or she cannot win. Depressive ruminations can also have a problem solving function during difficult times.”

 

First of all, clinical depression is a complex and serious medical condition often caused by something physically not working as it should inside the brain. It can be debilitating or worse. People are far more likely to make decisions harmful to them than beneficial while depressed. Depression as an evolutionary advantage is intellectually dishonest at its core and insidiously harmful to those struggling to be healed from it. It’s like saying cancer or a broken leg carries an evolutionary advantage.

 

Next Daley gives us this: “The current global happiness industry has some of its roots in Christian morality codes, many of which will tell us that there is a moral reason for any unhappiness we may experience. This, they will often say, is due to our own moral shortcomings, selfishness and materialism. They preach a state of virtuous psychological balance through renunciation, detachment and holding back desire.”

 

First of all, the “happiness industry” would go broke selling “renunciation, detachment and holding back desire.” Second, I actually feel bad for Daley and for Christianity in that this is how Jesus is perceived. 

 

Yes, we renounce sin and the selfish things of this world –precisely because God, in His wisdom, knows those things can never bring us true happiness. But when we detach ourselves from the temporary and transient things of this world, we find true happiness in the unseen and eternal nature of a loving God through His Son, Jesus Christ. We do not hold back our desire for Jesus, but find a full and abundant and glorious life in Him!

 

When I first saw this article, I skimmed it and quickly passed it off, but it came back to mind as I was listening to Alistair Begg on Kinship Christian Radio around lunch time. (By the way, if some evolutionist can explain why a Scottish accent brings me joy, I’d be willing to listen.)  Anyway, Alistair was talking about the Heidelberg Catechism and how it teaches us that we need know only three things to pass from this world to the next having lived a happy life: “…first, how great my sin and misery are; second, how I am set free from all my sins and misery; third, how I am to thank God for such deliverance.”

 

As Alistair would say, “And there you have it, dear ones.”

 

It’s gratitude. 

 

It’s joy in knowing that despite how messed up and broken and hopeless you (and everyone else) is, God has set you free! You don’t have to strive, you don’t have to fight, you don’t even have to acquire wealth, money, power, or harems! 

 

Gratitude! Thanking and praising God is the key to happiness. It’s what causes prison walls to crumble! Gratitude and praise are the only logical response to the realization of what God has done for you and I through Christ Jesus!

 

And guess what? Psychological study after study has shown that consistent positive interactions, particularly ones that involve gratitude, increase happiness and decrease levels of depression. There are actual measurable increases of dopamine, serotonin, and oxytocin in the brain when we practice gratitude and praise God.  

 

When you read secular articles about how to practice gratitude to help with depression, its amazing how much the recommended therapy sounds like things Christians have been doing for 2000 years, including advice to “count your blessings,” “appreciate others” and “give thanks out loud before meals.” 

 

The apostle Paul probably had more reason to be depressed than anyone we personally know, and yet when he wrote to the Philippians that he had learned to be content “in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.” (Philippians 4:11&12 NIV)

 

But Paul was not merely content. No, his advice to the Philippians reads like a prescription for happiness: “Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:4-7 NIV)

 

Today’s Praise

Happy are those who hear the joyful call to worship, for they will walk in the light of your presence, LORD. (Psalm 89:15 NLT)

(Photo by author. 🙂 )

 

 

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