What makes you happy is a clue to who you are


Matthew 16:26 – What good will it be for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul?

“I need to get an A on my Psych test this week!”

  • Why?

“It’ll make me happy!”

  • Why?

“If I do well in my major, then I can get into a good grad program.”

  • Why do you want that?

“So I can have a career as a clinical psychologist”

  • Why?

“I think I’ll be happy in that profession and find it rewarding!”

  • Why?

“When I was a child, my family and I were greatly helped through some sessions with a counselor.  I think that I’d be happy assisting people the same way.”

The pastor who shared this scenario did not go any deeper with his questioning of the college student.  But had he probed closer, a possible subsequent question might have been:

  • Why does it make you happy to help people?

I think the truthful answer to that question is key to revealing the source of our hope, joy, value, identity, purpose – in a word, our VERY essence.

Here is why it matters.  If our hope, our happiness-source is anything but Jesus, we have engaged in a DOOMED quest for 2 reasons:

1) we’ll never be satisfied the way we are wired to be

2) we can lose THAT which we might gain

This reality came to a head for me on Friday.  I started my day at 4:20 am with my ritual worship at the alter of MY WEIGHT, aka the bathroom scale.  Talk about God’s sovereignty – He controls my body to such a degree for His good purposes, that just like previous days and weeks, I was stuck 5 pounds higher than I want to be…..a fact painful to me since November when I realized that I had added to Maria’s substance.

I KNEW that this moment was crucial, that I was battling idolatry and who and what was most important in my life.  I wrestled with this truth on my morning walk, recognizing the approaching ‘line in the sand’.

Line in the sand

Was I going to worship MY happiness or submit to God as Lord of my life?

So once again, I decided to abandon this morning ritual. (I don’t need the scales to help me eat in the manner that provides me with the most energy – we’re talking about something SICK in my soul, an obsession with the scales and a numeral!)  This time, I pray, the decision stays final.  (cynics or realists might rightly ask, “Where have I heard THAT resolve before?!”

Listening to John Piper’s sermon in the car on the way to school and applying his line of probative questions to what I describe as that which makes me happy, I saw the foolishness and futility of imbuing 5 pounds with THAT much power over me.

For MY bottom line with the weight idol is this: If I weigh X lbs, I’ll be happy.

That’s stupid!  Our lives are just a vapor,

As James says in chapter 4, verse 4- ….You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes.

Why should you or I allocate that many resources of mind, heart and strength to the shell, the temporary? Where is my concern with the main part of me that will last eon upon eon of time?  And if, as the Bible teaches, we are going to be completely changed upon seeing Jesus face to face, why am I angsting over what will drop off and decay?

As our pastor Patrick quipped this morning: When we die, the nut that we were leaves behind the withered shell of our body. (That got me pondering: Am I a peanut, a chestnut, a walnut, a pistachio????)   I’m 57 years old.  This weight issue is OH,SO temporary and 40 years from now I won’t be even thinking about it.  So why waste my earthly energy TODAY worshipping the outer casing that is going to disintegrate?

Back to the title of this reflection:

Who are you?  Who am I?  Are we our own god?  or are we worshippers and lovers of the only true and living God?  Truth is – we have souls. We were created and wired only to be satisfied by the best – God, Himself.  Why waste our happiness on junk when we can experience a partial joy NOW learning about and savoring God, all along knowing that ‘fullness of joy‘ awaits us. (Psalm 16:11)

PS:  One final thought about the student who might have answered that her idea of happiness was helping others.  If we help others to FEEL good about ourselves, that is sin.  If we help others to PLEASE our heavenly Father and do that work in His strength, honoring Him in the process, that is what the Bible calls ‘good’.  Inner motivation DOES matter. The Pharisees sought man’s approval and esteem through outward ‘righteous’ behavior.  (Read again Jesus’ words in Luke 18:9-14)


Happiness and a House



Yes, we have a contract for the sale of our current house.  Thank you for your faithfulness in praying for God’s will and kairos-timing!

But no, that has nothing to do with happiness. (Although we ARE relieved!)


Happiness as a concept came up the other day in the middle of a podcast. Listening to 2 professional baseball players describing their dream job gave me pause.

These men are in the height of their ball careers; they are married to women who love and support them; they are followers of Christ and they are what the world would call successful.  What more could one ask?

But when they described their schedules, I thought – “Who would want that kind of life, that kind of day?”  It’s April and their baseball season is ramping up.  A snapshot of their lives reveals this kind of quotidian activity:


·         whizz by middle America while riding on buses, briefly stopping a day or two in forgettable cities

·         crack nuts, spit out pistachio shells while hanging out in dugouts

·         study their Bibles in sweaty locker rooms

·         risk injury and mercurial statistics on the diamonds

·         catch up with wives & children by skyping in the evenings from different hotels

This is what little boys dream of? Sacrifice for? Skip ‘life’ for?     

I thought about what it takes to make me happy – and it boils down to how I get to spend my day.  No matter WHAT the job, WHAT the family arrangement, WHAT the finances, WHAT the health, WHAT the house and stuff…..what makes me happy is:

·         Being well-rested

·         Spending unconstrained time reading my Bible and meditating on what God shows me about Himself, His Love and my future with Him and fellow members of the ‘holy bridal party’

·         Eating healthy food while sharing thoughtful conversation with Mike… other family… friends

·         Walking/ working out an hour a day

·         Keeping up with email, podcasts and blogs on the internet

·         Reading good books each day  

I already have all the above right now in my life. Any other details, including where I work, where I live, where I worship…those are the interchangeable parts.

Maybe you think I’m too reductionist.  But it sure is freeing to know that I don’t have to have anything else to make me happy.

Hebrews 13:5 – Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you”

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