Better Than Happy. Why I Stopped Chasing Happiness

I’ve been thinking about addressing this topic for a while. Instead of getting these words out I found myself holding back, afraid that my words wouldn’t come across correctly. Then I realized, this is exactly the problem…I was holding back about speaking on something that was on my heart because I was worried about what people would think of me. I was worried people would think I am an imposter or not “qualified” to speak on this subject. In this digital age, the comparison struggle is real, raw, and all too much a part of our reality. It is impossible to avoid given the constant updates we are being bombarded with. Whether it be friends and family giving their status updates on social media, or news outlets covering the latest in everything from who “has it all together,” to who has fallen from good graces, we are 24/7, 365 surrounded by updates which tend to consume our thoughts, days, and impact our emotions. 
 
I know I am not alone in feeling this way. How often have you found yourself doing the social media or news scroll when you see an update from a friend or family member, or even a distant acquaintance and you think, “Man, I wish I had their (fill in the blank).”  As much as you don’t want to admit it, this probably happens on the daily. What if I told you, I have found a cure for this comparison syndrome? 

Stop scrolling (and searching) for happiness.

Okay, you might be thinking “this lady is nuts, I don’t find happiness when I scroll through social media, I do it because I’m bored!” Hear me out…when we scroll through social media, we’re subconsciously absorbing everything the world is putting out. Social media has connected our world, changed the way we shop, consume the news, and communicate. It’s done a ton of good, but with that comes some downfall.

The issue I find with the social media scroll is that most of the time, people are sharing their highlight reel. You see the “happy” times, the good news, the new outfits, ALL THE GOOD, and not so much of the struggle. Does this mean I wish hard times on people? No, of course not. I think it’s important we all level set our expectations with social media. Understand what you are seeing when you scroll is likely someones highest moments. Behind a smile and a new car, someone could really be struggling with some real issues like depression, addiction, abandonment, who knows! It does you absolutely no good to compare your life or lust after someone’s highlight reel. 

So, how do you avoid this? In a recent sermon, our pastor told us to stop perusing happiness. Yes, you read that right, stop the pursuit of happiness. Why? Because, it is just that…a pursuit (the action of following or pursuing someone or something) of happiness (the state of being happy). Happiness is a state, a temporary, fleeting feeling. Why should we be pursuing something that is temporary?

Let’s apply this to real life. When you find yourself scrolling, and you see so and so has a brand new outfit, do you ever think to yourself, “gosh, it would be so nice to have an outfit like this, that would make me happy!” Or maybe you are doing the scroll, and you see that another friend has gotten engaged while you are still on the market yourself. You probably feel your heart tugging, yearning to find that kind of happiness. This feeling of constant yearning for something exists outside of social media too. Maybe you’re a career gal. And you have big aspirations to get to that next promotion, that next job, sign the next big deal. I’ve been there! I get it! It’s important to have goals. But…what happens when you reach that next step? After the celebrations are done and the realities of your new job set in, you always want more. 

Friends, the happiness found in a new outfit will fade. It will go out of style, rip, become worn, there will always be something else to chase after. Happiness found in marriage or relationship will fade. Harsh? No, it’s true. Putting your happiness in the hands of a partner means that when they don’t live up to your expectations, they disappoint you, or you find yourself disagreeing (it will happen), your happiness is gone. 

If pursuing happiness is not the answer, what is?

Joy. More specifically, joy in the lord. Happiness is circumstantial, it is fleeting, it is dependent on outside variables. How does joy differ from happiness? 

This blog post from She Reads Truth, by Sarah Matheny does a good job of explaining joy. The post says,

“Joy is not momentary pleasure—it is the deep and lasting condition of our relationship with God this world cannot steal away. Christ tells us, “Now is your time of grief, but I will see you again and you will rejoice, and no one will take away your joy” (John 16:22, NIV).”

In layman’s terms…happiness is tied to our circumstance while joy is not.

So, what does all of this mean?

I think it’s important to tie this conversation back to the beginning of this post. I shared my feelings of struggle with the social media scroll, the constant bombarding of news, and the noise that we are faced with everyday. Have I purchased a trendy outfit after seeing it on social media several times, in magazines, or trend reports? Absolutely. Has it made me happy? Sure. Did this happiness fade? Almost instantly. Was my wedding day a happy day? 100% one of the happiest days of my life. But, that happiness faded. When I think back on that day I am flooded with happy memories. However, the true joy shared with my husband came in the days after.

If you chase after the things that you feel will make you happy you might gain temporary feelings of happiness. Those feelings will fade, and you will enter an endless cycle of chasing, lusting, yearning and this cycle will not end in joy.

How do we trade happiness for joy? The same blog post on Joy from She Reads Truth by Sarah Matheny says it perfectly, 

“True joy is not something that can be conjured up or willed. Joy exists apart from our control—we simply choose whether or not to enter in. Joy, the Psalmist tells us, is given in God’s presence. It will never end, never fall short, never disappoint (Psalm 16:11).”

 

Helpful resources

If you have enjoyed this post and want to dig into this subject further, please check out these helpful resources. 

One Church: How Do I Get My Joy Back? August 25th, 2019 – Greg Ford

 

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