The Pursuit of Happiness
Lately I have been analyzing my life. My husband and I have been trying to prioritize life. What are our goals? Are we meeting them? Are we loving what we do, are we making a difference?
It’s an interesting concept. In a way we are “expected” to fall in line; to dream the American dream. I googled the American Dream and here’s what I discovered. The American Dream has largely been defined by those in leadership throughout history. Our founding fathers proclaimed that each person’s desire to pursue happiness would lead to a prosperous society. If you follow history, you will see a transition from this original vision to a vision of acquiring things. With each president, the definition of the pursuit of happiness; known as the American Dream; broadened. Decent housing, a good job, education, and healthcare to name a few. * What we deserved and should strive for as Americans has been defined for us by those who lead our nation.
All this research made me wonder, “What is the true pursuit of happiness?” Could it truly be the accumulation of more stuff? The money in our 401K or other accounts? Homeownership? A good paying occupation? Quality healthcare?
King Solomon had all this and more. The American Dream pales in comparison to what he had. Yet this King dedicates an entire book of the bible to telling us how all the pleasantries of life are nothing. In these verses, Solomon gives us a glimpse of where true happiness can be found.
“I have seen what is good. It is good for a person to eat and drink. It’s good for them to be satisfied with their hard work on this earth. That’s what they should do during the short life God has given them. That’s what God made them for. Sometimes God gives a person wealth and possessions. God makes it possible for that person to enjoy them. God helps them accept the life he has given them. God helps them to be happy in their work. All these things are gifts from God. A person like that doesn’t have to think about how their life is going. That’s because God fills their heart with joy.” (Ecc. 5:18-20 NIRV)
I’ve decided becoming truly counter-cultural in our pursuit of happiness is the way to go. Giving, not gathering stuff. Experiencing life together, not spending more money. Being present and not continuously planning for what’s to come. Sometimes we get so focused on the future we forget to live right now.
I’m not against financial planning, life plans or goals. All of those things are good. As an administrator at heart, I think plans and procedures are a vital part of life. However, I do believe far too many people live as if the end goal is to arrive safely at the end of life and walk into the sunset like we see in movies. Reality is, we aren’t going to take anything with us.
The Bible is very clear in telling us to store up our treasure in heaven (Matthew 6).
I’ve determined that my life isn’t going to be dictated by how other people define happiness or success to be. My life, plans, finances, and time are going to be spent on things of eternal value. People. However messy, people are what we can take with us. We get one opportunity to influence the people in our lives.
It starts with my family. They need me. They need me to be present when I am with them. Things like taking time for a sweet embrace and kiss from my husband instead of rushing on to the next thing to do, playing games and laughing with my children, making memories together for them to remember for a lifetime, planning the vacation, taking the trip.
The next step for me is returning to the meaning of true discipleship; taking time to care about people. I want our family to spend time investing in small groups and church functions, having coffee or dinner with friends, writing the letter or email, picking up the phone.
In a world that is spinning at an incredible pace with things to do and information overload, I’m feeling a calling back to simplicity. I want to be like the person Solomon mentioned, not concerned about how my life is going because my heart is filled with so much joy in doing what God has me to do.
Lord, thank You for Your Word that reminds us not to store up our treasures here on this earth. May You show us ways to invest in people and the things that truly have eternal value. Amen.
* Information taken from (What Is the American Dream Today? by Kimberly Amadeo)