For the past several weeks we have been spending a lot of time talking about what makes us happy. Many have wondered why so long about one topic. For me it’s personal. The one single thing that totally breaks my heart as a pastor, a family member, or a friend is to witness someone I care about undermining their own happiness. I watch from the sideline as they make decisions that will eventually undermine their own happiness. Maybe you have experienced this as well. You see it coming, it’s not a sixth sense or physic powers, but you witness people constantly doing things that undermine their own happiness. It is tragic to watch. We dare not say anything. The truth is there are enough unavoidable things in this life that causes us pain. It is truly heartbreaking when something that is 100% avoidable but somehow people don’t avoid it. There is one thing in this life that is consistent and that Jesus even speaks about. Jesus says in this life everyone will have trouble. So with all the unavoidable trouble why would anyone create more trouble? So it breaks my heart to witness people make decisions or do things that I know will cause them pain and trouble which all is totally avoidable. These people are not immediately but eventually undermining their own happiness.
The reason we undermine our own happiness is confusion about two ideals: pleasure and happiness. And the relationship between these two words: pleasure and happiness. The biggest part is because of the dynamics between pleasure and happiness. God created us with the capacity for pleasure and happiness. God wants us to experience pleasure and happiness. Pleasure is a word that has gotten a bad overtone especially in religious circles. God is not against pleasure. It’s not an either or. The problem is our priority. When we place pleasure a higher priority over happiness, we have a problem. When we choose pleasure over happiness you get neither. Truth is one leads to the other but the other ultimately undermines the one. Happiness can lead to pleasure but if you only pursue pleasure and forget the principles that lead to happiness and the end of the day you have neither. If you are an adult, you will know already that pleasure will eventually lose its pleasure and instead becomes a prison. Over time pleasure loses to pleasure. A pastime becomes a pathway to a habit, to an addiction. These are not things that are necessarily illegal, immoral, or dangerous. Pleasure eventually loses to pleasure. The Apostle Paul when writing to the church in Rome about this says when you continually say yes to pleasure over and over again you eventually become a slave to it. It begins to own you. We may say “I’m not a slave I have control over this.” But if we keep saying yes over and over again to our pleasure we are no longer choosing. We have given up control. We become a slave when it becomes something we have to do not something we want to do. Paul’s says you can be a slave to sin, what every separates us, or obedient to the Good shepherd. Happy people already know this. Jesus says sow happiness, sow and sow some more and you will eventually reap happiness. But it’s not immediately but it reaps better. Our trouble is when we are unhappy we want to do something that will immediately make us happy. We go straight to the pleasure to feel good. We feel like we need to do something now to quickly change our status from unhappy to happy but Jesus says is takes time and we got to sow happiness not pleasure.
Is there any pleasure that is undermining your happiness? Again it doesn’t have to be anything illegal or immoral. You might not want to admit it, even to our self, because you may feel you may have to do anything about it. You don’t have to do anything but you might want to start by being honest with yourself. Is there a pleasure that you have given into that undermines your happiness or undermines the happiness of those you love? Have you ever had a child ask you: "why do you always buy shoes, be on your phone, buy a new car, drink and act that way?" Is pleasure undermining your happiness? If you say yes to your pleasure you are rejecting Jesus’ offer for an extraordinary life. I’m not implying anything was intentional. Without meaning to, have you placed a pleasure over your pursuit of happiness? Only you know the answer. You never ever have to share it with anyone else. But if you continue the path you are on, you will one day look back and wished you would have tried something different. If that’s you, you’re not a bad person, just a sheep that needs a good shepherd and a life that doesn’t drain you but gives you more life. That exchange is one you will never ever regret.
Peace, Love and Happiness