Life seems to be going well right now, and that worries me a little. Most of us have enjoyed blocks of time when everything fell in place and life was unusually good. But we also know from experience that all of this can change quickly. We can go from being on top of the world one moment to the depths of despair the next. That’s just the way life is.
Who can know what tomorrow will bring, or who can control every variable in life? People we love die, dreams shatter, and people often disappoint us. Our greatest plans and efforts can fail because of events outside our control and beyond our foresight. From a here and now perspective life is not always what we want or think we need.
I am not suggesting that life is bad or that we should just resolve ourselves to misery and gloom. In fact the opposite is true. Life is what you make of it and its quality depends on your outlook, approach, and choices. If you are looking for paradise now you are going to find disappoint. If you think you can escape the natural course of living, the ups and downs of existing, then you will never find peace and contentment. On the other hand, by accepting life for what it is and by understanding your purpose for being you can rise above the hardships and difficulties.
We can learn to be content in whatever condition we find ourselves (Phil 4:11). The key here is in the idea of learning. Everyone wants happiness, but the routine of daily living and its associated problems can derail us. The trouble is we often equate happiness with what is going on around us at that moment. So we need to learn how to find satisfaction despite the struggles of life.
This is a multimillion dollar a year business with books published and countless hours of counseling designed to help us find happy. We spend money on toys, recreation, and entertainment to help us cope with life. They may distract us for an instant, but they do little to solve the real problem. If you want to be happy and content, turn to God for the answers (Phil. 4:6-7). Learn from His Word, trust in what He says, and do as he commands. So what does God say about the key to happiness?
Learn that your life is not your own. People who give of themselves, who sacrifice their time, energy, and talents to help others, often find a deep sense of satisfaction and fulfillment. Even though the service may involve distress and discomfort personally, the one who puts himself on the line often finds what he is longing for. It is the reason some join service organizations or go to impoverished places to help.
God teaches us this point throughout the Bible. We belong to Him, first and foremost (1 Cor. 6:19-20). He gave us our physical lives and the opportunity for eternal life. God wants our complete service, but we have a choice in the matter. We can either become a “living sacrifice” for Him or choose to live selfishly for ourselves (Rom. 12:1-2). But understand this; you will never truly be happy until you learn to put God first in your life.
The Bible also teaches us to serve others; to put our family, friends, neighbors, and brethren before ourselves (Phil. 2:304). Paul was glad to do this as he traveled from place to place encouraging Christians and teaching the lost (2 Cor. 1:3-11). He often sacrificed his own needs and wants to help others (1 Cor. 4:11-14). If you are a little rundown, discouraged, or just feeling the pressures of life try serving your brethren more. You might surprise yourself at how good it feels.
Too many of us look for the answers in this world and we think if we can just do a little better materially or socially then our problems will disappear. It goes something like this, if I can get that next promotion or job, if I can buy the house of my dreams, or if I can finally finish my degree then all will be well. When this world fails us, we continue to look for more and more of what it offers. It is a vicious cycle of never ending disappointments, but sadly we don’t learn.
God tells us to be content with the things we have (1 Tim. 6:8-10) and not worry about storing up earthly treasures (Matt. 7:19). The adage “You cannot take it with you when you are gone is true and biblically based (1 Tim. 6:7). So what is the key to happiness? It is working as hard as you can to store up spiritual treasures (Matt. 6:20-21). They alone have lasting value and meaning because they never grow old or decay and you can take them with you when you are gone.
We need to learn the only thing in life that matters is reaching heaven. We can suffer from disease and poverty as Job did. People may turn against us as was the case in Paul’s life. We can have a terrible existence by the world’s measure. However, none of that matters if we reach heaven.
– Terry Starling