Yesterday I came across a simple quote, one that on any ordinary day wouldn’t have led to the meditative pause I experienced. “Happiness isn’t about getting what you want. It’s about wanting what you have.” Pretty matter-of-fact isn’t it? We’ve all read quotes and blog posts and heard motivational speakers’ exposition the difference between happiness and joy, the temporary and the eternal. Working for a pretty value-centric corporation, I’ve heard more than my share. In this post, I want to talk about what to do when you’re not happy in life.
So why did this quote seize the perfectly pleasant surface level thoughts that had mostly consumed my mind up to this point in the day? Why was it opening those deeper, darker areas of my soul I usually leave unattended until Sunday morning?
Everyone wants to be happy.
I surely do. I want my husband and kids to be happy and I really wish all the people spewing on my social media feeds would cultivate some happiness too. And the truth is, we all do experience happiness at different points in our lives. When those moments arrive, we cherish them. The problem is that when they leave, we find ourselves craving them. We want the happy back.
Blessed are the Mourners
In Christianity, we love to talk about the happy. Just think about all those bible verses and phrases we find on Christian coffee mugs like….
- His mercies are new every morning (Lamentations 3:22-23)
- The Lord will fight for you (Exodus 14:14)
- She is clothed with strength and dignity (Proverbs 31:25)
Or my personal favorite, happiness is a cup of coffee and my Bible (I really hope this isn’t true)
Don’t get me wrong. Those are holy, true, and encouraging scriptures (maybe not the phrase), because all scripture is used for encouragement (2 Timothy 3:16). But these sorts of spiritual tag lines don’t do anything to prepare our soul for the realities of life. They don’t do anything to build us the armor needed to not just survive the difficult days but to thrive through them.
When you really look at what the Bible has to say about receiving blessing, favor, and joy, you may not like the sound of it so much. You certainly won’t find it on a coffee mug:
- “Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.” – Matthew 5:4
- “Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.” – Romans 5:3-4
- “And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast.” – 1 Peter 5:10
- “For just as we share abundantly in the sufferings of Christ, so also our comfort abounds through Christ.” – 2 Corinthians 1:5
How can we realign our souls to balance this tension between joy and sorrow? Both are surely of God.
Loving the Lows
What if we learned to love the sadness as much as the happiness? Loved the lows, not just the highs? What if we learned to love the plate we’ve been dished, no matter the menu? Moreover, what if we truly appreciated that there was a plate to be dished at all?
When I’m counseling girls, most of the time they are dealing with some sort of emotional crisis. Anger, insecurity, rejection, self-loathing, fear, you name it. One of the first things I share with them catches them by surprise and quite possibly causes them to question their choice of confidante.
I’ll begin, “You know, I think all this ____ (fill in with your choice of emotional crisis) is the best thing that’s ever happened to you.”
Say again??? That sounds pretty cold. Certainly not compassionate.
Most people who seek a counselor are torn between their desire to feel validated in their melancholy and the desire to gain true wisdom. I just think it’s quicker to cut to the chase.
If you’re wondering what to do when you’re not happy here’s your answer:
What I am about to share with you is the key to true happiness. The only way to truly experience happiness is to experience the LACK of happiness. You can’t know light without darkness. There is no good without bad. There’s no understanding of the gift of life without the pain of death.
It’s a natural order of the universe really, and it’s a truth for our souls. When we experience the moments of sadness, disappointment, failure, and stress, we allow a hollow to form in our soul that’s available to be filled. Satisfaction, success, peace of mind, and yes, happiness can fill the crevices in a way that is tangible and poignant, of which we are fully conscious.
Related Post: Greatness Is Your Destiny
When we never allow ourselves to love the sadness and embrace the pain, we will never know what it is to truly love the happy. Our emotions hover at surface level, which truth be told may protect against moments of angst. But surface level emotions never allow you to enter the deeper places of unremitting love. It never allows you to enter perpetual peace, and relentless strength that develops when you realize the twists and turns of life are just that, life.
In true irony, the emotional experiences of life lead us to a life no longer guided and controlled by those emotions.
We appreciate the highs and the lows for what they are and what they teach us. In doing so our life is centered and secured no matter what we face. We can learn to rest.
So, go love your lows, and enjoy the happiness. Let your mind rest.