“The Psychology of Happiness”. This was the title of a lecture I sat in on at work this last week. In all honesty, I was more interested in the free lasagna lunch that was offered, but I was also mildly interested in what the lecturers were going to say. Two of the counselors from the Employee Assistance Program where I work gave this lecture, complete with Power Point slides. I give them an “A” for their cute dresses and perky attitudes, but a lower grade on lecture content. Not that what they had to say was inherently wrong, but perhaps just a bit misleading or incomplete.
They produced evidence from several “studies” showing that with just a few concentrated efforts we can produce our own happiness and change our own lives. They suggested that thinking of one good thing that happened in your day, each day, would help you have a better outlook on your life. Okay. Nothing wrong with that. They suggested that daily meditation and exercise have also been proven to generate feelings of wellbeing and happiness. Again, I’m not arguing with what they had to say.
Yet what kept nagging at me through their entire lecture was not what they said, but rather, what they did not say. They kept indicating that we are capable, of our own volition, to manufacture our own happiness. We can be happiness generators, and that with just a few careful daily practices, we can produce unlimited happiness for ourselves. What they did not say, and perhaps because of the secular nature of the lecture, could not say, is that our happiness well will run dry eventually. This notion that we can manufacture your own happiness rings hollow when we don’t connect to the ultimate Source of joy
We whine about not being happy enough. We complain that our significant other no longer makes us happy… as if this is their sole reason for living. We gauge our life success by how “happy” we are. I’m going to suggest we trade our desire for happiness in for a desire for joy. What’s the big difference in the two? Happiness often depends on our circumstances. Joy on the other hand exists separate from our life circumstances. Ever meet someone that regardless of the trials they face manage to seem satisfied and content? That person has connected to the Source. Their joy does not run out.
One of the Fruits of the Spirit mentioned in Galations 5 is Joy. When the Spirit of God is alive within us, we have joy in abundance. We don’t have to manufacture it, conjure it, perform certain duties to obtain it… it’s there. It’s ours for the taking. Now the ability to take hold of it in dire or troublesome times is a bit of a talent to master. Our ability to grasp it at all times depends on resting in the hope we have in Jesus. When we lose sight of our hope, we have a harder time holding onto our joy. It’s there. We just forget it sometimes.
As the lecture came to a close and our perky lecturers received the due applause from the audience, I felt badly for those who might give what they said a try. In all honesty, I wanted to scream that they had offered a temporary fix to a permanent problem. What makes us happy today will not always fill the bill tomorrow. But our JOY, our joy should be that constant hope in Christ. And Christ is forever. He is the well that will never run dry. Our joy is found complete in Him.