Recently while surfing the tube, I stumbled upon a documentary called “Hippies” on the Biography Channel. Having lived out my youngest years in the 1960s and 1970s, I was intrigued.
Did you know that LSD (Lysergic acid diethylamide) was accidentally discovered by a Swiss chemist named Albert Hoffman in the 1940s and that its feverish spread up and down the West Coast in the early ’60s was intentional?
This confounding social experiment spawned an entire counter-culture of acid rock, anti-war, free love disciples; a truly “spaced out” generation. The cultural attraction was the promise of freedom; “no rules” living. Do whatever turns you on. Be happy.
But were they? Does doing our own thing whenever, wherever and however we want truly result in deep peace and lasting happiness? It seems like it should. Though fun and free for the moment, unrestrained sex, drugs and rock ’n’ roll ultimately took a frightful toll. A literal wasteland of blown minds, diseased bodies, broken hearts and ruined childhoods resulted — not exactly what Timothy Leary originally advertised. Maybe freedom isn’t actually free.
Fast-forward to the present.
Have things changed? Not much. Case in point. John Mayer is one of the best known, most sought-after musicians of the present generation and compensated accordingly. In regard to opposite sex companionship, let’s simply say there are ample and willing “sirens” in every port. Fame, fortune, physical fulfillment abound; but is he happy? Consider the chorus to a song entitled “Something’s Missing” on Mayer’s latest album:
“Something’s missing and I don’t know how to fix it; something’s missing and I don't know what it is … at all”
How can this be? Maybe it’s because the failed mantra of the ’60s is still alive and well today, boldly screaming from news ads, billboards, movie screens and even hit songs: “Find true happiness in unrestrained, no-rules, ‘me first’ living!”
No; not then or now.
Just ask Marilyn, Elvis, Heath and Tiger. The unfulfilled lives of the astoundingly privileged lead us to a common refrain: “no-boundaries” living is shockingly insufficient.
So, back to our central question: Can’t I just be happy?
Perhaps an attempted definition is in order for this deeply desirable yet woefully elusive state. Try this on for starters: When things are taking place in our lives that excite, enthuse and make us feel generally good; we experience happiness.
True? Yes, but woefully incomplete.
There is another deeply sinister side to the overall equation that requires consideration: Happiness is a state of being we enjoy until something we consider bad, hurtful or harmful interrupts our daily lives.
It’s true. Things are not always exciting, enthusing and generally good, are they?
Not in my life.
Bad stuff happens to all; stuff that interrupts our lives at the most inopportune times; stuff that sends our happiness south for the winter. It’s just part of being human, isn’t it?
Consider this. Maybe in trying to unlock the secret to happiness, we’re actually asking the wrong question. Maybe a different question hits at the heart of the issue: Why is “bad stuff” a fundamental part of being human? No matter how much we possess, where we live, what we drive, who we hang out with; we simply can’t hide from the bad stuff life brings, can we? But why?
The Bible gives a clear explanation for the origination of “bad.” Can I offer it?
A perfect God lovingly created a race of earth-dwellers, bestowing free will upon all. He desired His relationship with “man” to be loving; not forced. But from the inaugural created couple to the present day, man has chosen against his Creator ... preferring “no boundaries” living to the Creator’s all-knowing and eternal will. Man’s rebellion suggested he knew best how to find happiness and fulfillment apart from his Maker, and although God mercifully allowed such a choice, He also allowed the natural consequence of man’s rebellion to ensue. Thus, we exist today in a very “fallen” world. Every physical, emotional, and spiritual malady we encounter in daily life has its roots in that original rebellious choice: “no boundaries” living over humble obedience. Though glimpses of God’s goodness and glory surround and enchant us (have you looked at Payson’s night sky lately), manifold drudgery and pain, consequent of our rebellion, burdens us to the depths of despair.
Not buying it? Good luck in your continued search for perpetual happiness.
But if you’re still with me, the Bible also offers helpful news. There is a relatively basic solution to this ugly and painful reality: surrender your life completely to your Creator.
Learn how He has designed you to most effectively live, and strive to live accordingly. When you struggle with His answers, trust that He knows best.
Does that guarantee constant happiness?
No, but it will offer you the best shot at happiness in this fallen world. Furthermore, you’ll learn to seek contentment in life, a far more realistic goal.
Let me explain.
The elusive state of happiness is such because it is tied to circumstances that are often outside one’s control. Thus, most people experience a roller coaster existence: happy when things seem good; depressed when circumstances are disagreeable. Christian contentment, however, is driven by faith, not emotion.
The contented person recognizes God as the pilot of their life, and trusts that whatever situation they find themselves in is ordained and allowed by God for a distinct purpose. Consequently, even difficult things are faithfully accepted as best — resulting in a contented outlook on today and true hope for tomorrow — as uncertain as tomorrow may appear.
Can’t I just be happy?
Sure, you’ll be happy sometimes, and enjoy it to the fullest when you are. But don’t pursue perpetual happiness. It’s a futile pursuit.
Seek, instead, to understand why God placed you on this planet, and seek to fulfill his unique purpose for you here. In discovering His purpose for your life, you’ll find a contentment you never dreamed possible.
About the author
Jim Harper is the pastor of Mountain Bible Church, 302 E. Rancho Road, Payson. Services are at 8:45 a.m. and 10:30 a.m., Sunday.
To learn more about the church and its programs, call (928) 472-7800.