"When times are good, be happy; but when times are bad, consider: God has made the one as well as the other. Therefore, a man cannot discover anything about his future." Ecclesiastes 7:14 (NIV)
When my son Brad was about three years old, he went through a little phase of playing on my emotions when he wanted something. If I told him "no," he would reply, "But mommy, that will make me happy." Then he would give me his most adorable smile and bat his eyes at me for effect.
Boy did he know how to work me over! Some of the requests were for things like a lollipop before dinner or staying up several hours past bedtime. And while I knew those things might make him happy for a moment, they definitely weren't the best choice for him. As his mom, I knew that sticking to my "no" was the wise choice — no matter how many manipulation tactics he tried.
And yet, how many times do I act just like this before God?
I kneel before Him and present Him with a laundry list of things I think would make my life better. In reality, I don't have any better idea about what is best for me than my child does. My view of happiness is very temporary and circumstance based.
While I think I know what will make me happy, I am learning that, in truth, I have absolutely no idea. And this is where trusting God and submitting to His will is always the better choice.
How many times in your life have you wanted something so badly — yet when you got whatever it was, you realized, "Nope, this didn't do it for me either." That house you wanted to move into so badly, that person you wanted to date, that achievement you thought would bring success, that child you longed to have — they all brought you momentary happiness, but they didn't fulfill you as you had hoped or bring you the significance you longed for.
I am learning slowly that whenever I find myself begging God for something, with some whining thrown in for good measure, I have to step back and ask myself the question: But will it make me happy? I know that whatever "it" is, it doesn't have the power to bring me lasting happiness — that deep indwelling joy that only God can bring.
I may have a flash of happiness, only to lose it mere moments later. I am learning slowly to push aside these momentary longings and seek God instead. To tell Him, "Here's what I think I want. But I trust You to do what's best for me."
I have learned that a book with my name on the cover, an outfit hanging in my closet that looks great on me, an accolade for my child, a trip to the spa, or an address in the right neighborhood will not make me happy, as much as I think it might. I can't look for happiness in the things of this earth, or I will certainly live in a state of disappointment.
Instead I can spend my time seeking God, and allowing Him to bring along unexpected blessings — little bouquets of happiness along the way.
That doesn't mean I don't still look longingly at a new iPod or a sleek new laptop and think fleetingly, "Oooooh, now that would make me happy." But I am learning to pull back and refocus my perspective when I have those thoughts.
Will it make me happy? Maybe for a moment. But in the long run, only God can bring me the joy I seek. I am learning that, minute by minute, day by day.
Dear Lord, please help my perspective to be Your perspective. Help my focus to stay where it needs to be — fixed intently on You and not on the things of this world I think will make me happy. In Jesus' Name, Amen.
By Marybeth Whalen