The Happiness Dilemma

“From now on we will call the arrogant blessed. For those who do evil get rich, and those who dare God to punish them suffer no harm.” (Malachi 3:15 NLT)

It’s not uncommon for believers to feel they are caught in the proverbial “cross hairs” when it comes to wealth and material possessions. When we’re young in the faith it seems wrong that those who have no apparent knowledge or concern about following Jesus or living to His honor have everything this world can offer, especially if we’re struggling to make ends meet.

We work hard to do well at our jobs, but it seems it’s never enough. Every time we think we have a shot at getting ahead the car breaks down or the washer gives out or the kids need braces. “All we want is a little bit of happiness. Is that asking too much?”

That was the cry of my heart when I was young in the faith and just starting out in marriage. It took a long time, certainly longer than it should have, for me to finally grasp that happiness isn’t a byproduct of money or possessions, it grows out of my dependence upon the Lord and my pursuit of His glory and fame.

The bottom line to me, especially in this season of my life is this: wherein lies my deepest pleasure? Why is that so important? Augustine understood when he wrote: “Where your pleasure is, there is your treasure; where your treasure is, there is your heart; where your heart is, there is your happiness.” 

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It’s so tempting to look at the outward evidence of the lives of those who aren’t following Christ and conclude, as the prophet Malachi in the above verse, those who have little or no regard for the things of God are the only ones who prosper. Of course, at least intellectually, we know that’s not true, but it “feels” true to us. Thus, our happiness dilemma.

What’s a dilemma? According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary it means “a choice between equally undesirable alternatives.” And some might conclude, “What’s undesirable about wanting a little more?” So, what’s the downside? What’s it going to cost you to get that “little more?”

Often the dilemma is between compromising to get ahead – i.e. earn more, or continuing to harbor anger and frustration with those who seem to have what I want. But let’s back up and take a closer look at Augustine’s quote. Ask yourself some pertinent questions. First, where is your pleasure? Because wherever your pleasure is, there is your true treasure.

And I don’t believe he’s speaking simply of sensual pleasure, rather, what brings the greatest delight to your heart as you view your life? While I wish I could tell you where I find my pleasure now has always been true, but it hasn’t been. Today my greatest pleasure is pleasing and honoring the Lord, but this, at least for me, has been an “acquired taste.” If you’d asked me when I was younger, I may have told you that was my pleasure, but it would have been a lie, not because I didn’t want it to be true, but experientially it just wasn’t.

Wherever you are in your faith journey, seek Jesus until He becomes your all in all. When Jesus is your Treasure, He’ll own your heart, thus you’ll be happy in Him. Happiness is often thought of as an emotion, but to me it’s more a conviction, that leads to contentment, that manifests itself in peace.

Every day I thank the Lord for the bountiful way He cares for me, understanding that everything is a gift from Him, including my wife, kids, pups, church family, and everything else I love and appreciate about the life I now have in Him.

My best advice if you really want to be happy – seek Jesus with all your heart, mind, soul, and strength. He’s all you need to be fully and gratefully happy.

Blessings, Ed 😊

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