Real happiness is cheap enough, yet how dearly we pay for its counterfeit. (Hosea Ballou)
We can find many ways to seek happiness in this lifetime, but few measure up to true happiness. In fact, ask any ten people for their definition of happiness and you will receive ten different answers. What becomes evident is that happiness is pretty much 'accomplished' when something we want comes to fruition. We are happy when it is a sunny day, and we are not working so we can enjoy it. We are happy when there is money in our bank account, sufficient to pay the bills, but with a bit left over to enjoy some 'free time'. Contentment differs from happiness, because it is not based upon some external condition being met. When the heart and mind are at rest, peace abounding within, spirit in communion with God, we are content. We may not be 'happy' because there are clouds in the sky, but we can be content to know God is at the helm of our day.
I inherited your book on living; it’s mine forever— what a gift! And how happy it makes me! I concentrate on doing exactly what you say— I always have and always will. (Psalm 119:112)
True happiness is based on who we are, not what we can achieve or accomplish. We are redeemed children of the Lord of Lords and King of Kings. We are heirs of grace and benefactors of forgiveness. We are restored lives, broken no longer by life's bad choices. Happiness is an emotion we experience because we realize these things - contentment is a state of mind, heart, and soul because we know these things. God's Word has a way of creating 'discontentment' within us - it drives us to seek with all we possess, confess what doesn't belong any longer in our lives, and reach out to be enveloped in God's open arms. Why? To bring us into the place of contentment - the place where we don't just seek the 'highs' of happiness, but we abide in the 'evenness' of true contentment.
What a gift! Yes, the Word of God can produce many emotions within - ranging from angst over something we knew wasn't the best for us to pursue to the peace of knowing we are right where we need to be right now. Are we to dwell on these emotions? No, but we are to allow them to stir within us the desire to understand why it is we are experiencing them at that moment. The angst should drive us to stop, turn around, and take a different course. The peace should assure us we are traveling on a good course. Too many times we pursue the emotional avenue - if it feels good, we do it; if not, we don't. Truth be told, not every step of obedience will come with the emotional 'high'. Some steps of obedience actually come with some emotions like 'fear', 'doubt', and 'frustration'.
How can that be if God's desire for us is to take those steps of obedience? Obedience doesn't mean the way will be easy - it just means the way will be marked by his presence affirming we are on the right path. If we live by the standard of 'happiness', we will be chasing an elusive goal. If we live by the standard outlined in the Word of God above all else, we are likely to experience this 'condition' of contentment. Just sayin!
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