21 April 2011

Then I would be happy

I've been thinking about happiness lately. Happiness and discontent.

I have noticed that despite the lavish mercy around me, despite the countless graces among which I live, I constantly find myself saying, If only . . . then I would be happy. My wishes run the gamut of depth. If only I could repaint this room. If only I had a body like hers. If only we could travel more. If only Jared didn't have to work late. If only we had a baby.

Most of the things I wish for are good, abstractly considered. There's nothing inherently wrong with repainting your house or wanting to spend time with your husband. But rather than bringing my desire before the Lord in humble prayer, I quickly start manufacturing an idol. Soon I'm obsessed. Soon I'm convinced that nothing can make me happy unless I get what I want. This nasty knot of discontentment generates anger and despair.

Incidentally, I was watching a couple of young kids recently and, in the midst of an argument over how to spend the afternoon, heard this exact sentiment burst forth: "But I WON'T be happy until we play THIS!!!" Oh brother. That is exactly what I must sound like to God.

My complaints dishonor the Lord by refusing to accept His will and pretending that I have a better idea. In the end, I'm deceiving myself about the nature of happiness and becoming miserable because of it. By ignoring the truth-- that God loves me, has saved me, promises me every good thing, keeps me close in His care-- and believing a lie instead-- that I must have what I want to be content-- I turn away from the joy the Lord offers.

These are a few of the Scriptures I have been reflecting on, in an effort to replace my discontentment with joy, the lies with truth. I have found it really helpful to meditate on Heaven, actually, because lifting my eyes to those eternal wonders always seems to push out my complaints.

Nevertheless, I am continually with you; you hold my right hand. You guide me with your counsel, and afterward you will receive me to glory. Whom have I in heaven but you? And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.
 -Psalm 73:23-26

Are the comforts of God too small for you, or the word that deals gently with you? Why does your heart carry you away, and why do your eyes flash, that you turn your spirit against God and bring such words out of your mouth?
-Job 15:11-13

The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
-Philippians 4:5-7

These all died in faith, not having received the things promised, but having seen them and greeted them from afar, and having acknowledged that they were strangers and exiles on the earth. For people who speak thus make it clear that they are seeking a homeland . . . they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared for them a city.
-Hebrews 11:13-16 

Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”
-Revelation 21:1-4


  1. Thank you, Rebekah! I have seriously been thinking about the same thing. Your scripture recommendations are excellent...I think I may just distribute them among my things that I use the most, to constantly remind myself.

    Ironically enough, I tend to look at my friends (like you), see happiness, and wish that I had it. Then I think that I won't be happy until I have a husband, then kids, then when the worries about kids disappear, etc. We'd better learn to love the moment we're in, or else we'll miss every gift with which the Lord blesses us.

  2. I do the same thing, but it tends to turn towards one of my besetting sins: envy.

    Incidentally, like your last commenter wrote, I also look at you and think "Rebekah must have the most lovely life! She pops joyously around and makes all this delicious food! I'm kind of disheveled and feel bad half the time and am just running around trying to keep this crazy baby and sweet husband happy..." Haha. So thanks for your openness. It helps put things in perspective!

    Incidentally, that's one of the things I've been doing to try and learn some gratitude: Whenever I feel jilted or want something someone else has, I try to think of people much worse off than me who don't even have food to fill their bellies, much less enjoy; who can't pay the rent, much less have any stable job, etc. It's the old "starving kids in Africa" trick, but it works for me.