Updated: Aug 22
“I’m happy you’re happy!” How many of us have heard this or said this, especially in relationships? Somehow we’ve got it in our heads that happiness is our end goal. It’s a well-meaning statement, if anything. But happiness is an emotion and emotions are fleeting (all the ladies in the building know what I’m talking about). If our end goal is to seek after something temporary and fleeting, wouldn’t that be foolish? We’d never be able to fully grasp it. Yet this is how we function daily, seeking after happiness in our Starbucks drink, our workout, our accomplishments at the job, our relationships, and on and on.
Now your response might be, “those aren’t bad things to be happy about.” Agreed, they’re not. But they cannot sustain happiness, because happiness is dependent on your circumstances. What if the barista made your drink wrong? (You may laugh but I’ve seen some angry, coffee-deprived people before). What if you get injured in the gym and cannot workout for weeks? What if you lose a client at your job or your project fails? And like I talked about in my previous article, what if you and your partner break up? Your happiness could be shattered by these situations and then you scramble to find it in the next thing. It may not even be something “bad” that you turn to, but if we’re not turning to God in all circumstances, we will only have a temporary fix for our problems. And this is the cycle of the world.
I'm convinced that the life of the believer is meant to look completely different, a life marked by eternal joy in the midst of earthly discontentment.
As Christians, we have a greater hope than in what this world can provide us. “For we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, an eternal house in heaven, not built by human hands. Meanwhile we groan, longing to be clothed instead with our heavenly dwelling” (2 Corinthians 5:1-2 NIV). This body we have and this home we call earth will pass away, yet despite that reality, a believer has hope in the heavenly dwelling that awaits them. They know what they have to look forward to. If you could live where there’s no pain, suffering, or sickness, wouldn’t you long to be there? I would. At some point in your walk with the Lord you will have to make a decision, will you rely on what the world provides for happiness or will you rely on God for eternal joy? If you choose the first but claim to be a follower of God, Jesus says that you are lukewarm (not a good place to be in - read Revelation 3:16). If you choose the latter, then you begin to recognize that heaven has far more to offer you than anything this earth ever could. You become discontent with the world, but joyful in the Lord.
Believe it or not, that discontentment is a great and healthy place to be in. No really, I’m serious! I want to sit here for a moment and focus on why this is such an important realization to have before entering into a dating relationship. A person who seeks happiness in life circumstances will also seek happiness in the circumstances of a relationship. Whether that’s you or your partner, happiness will be dependent on performance, what activities you do together, how you feel about the other, whether or not there’s conflict, etc. All of these things can change day by day, once again trying to grasp something that is fleeting. A person who is discontent with the world will know that their circumstances cannot provide lasting joy, and therefore not put this expectation on the relationship or their partner.
It’s not as if a Christian doesn’t have fun or doesn’t enjoy this world, the difference is that they do not look to the world as their source of joy. “As for the rich in this present age, charge them not to be haughty, nor to set their hopes on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly provides us with everything to enjoy” (1 Timothy 6:17 ESV). We are to put our hope in God, and from that reliance, our Provider will give us the fruit of joy. The source of my joy being an unchanging, all-knowing, sovereign God. There is not a more stable foundation than that.
Your partner is not your source of joy, engagement is not your source of joy, marriage is not your source of joy, but God causes us to experience joy in the things that honor Him.
I talked about gratitude in my last article, and it’s the same concept here. I could not be thankful for what and who I have in my life if my gratitude was contingent on a certain outcome, as situations could easily change. My source of joy is the Lord, which is why I said that even if I don’t marry I could still be thankful for my current relationship. And let us not forget that marriage has its own hardships. Working as a nurse in organ transplant, I see some pretty sick patients. For many of them, their sickness progressed over a number of years and the failure of their organ was an unforeseen event at the time they said “I do” to their spouse. Our joy cannot be rooted in our health, our bodies do not last forever. I know of people even in the church who have filed for divorce because their spouse became sick. I’m not undermining the difficulties that they experienced in their marriage when disease hit the home, but I do wonder what their source of joy was when they decided to marry.
Understanding temporary happiness vs eternal joy is foundational for the believer, especially for those who are dating or planning to get married. And once you find that your satisfaction is truly in the Lord, you will notice life situations don’t shake you like they used to. If you’re not at that place, be bold and ask God to show you His glory. The most satisfying experience that I’ve had is being in the glorious presence of God, in meditation, worship, and prayer. And that’s only a tiny fraction of what heaven will be like! I know God wants to use me because I’m still here, so I must tend to the stewardships He has given me, but I certainly long for my heavenly dwelling each day.