With the recent celebration of July 4, I cannot help but think about the country we live in. The country we love. The land that so many of us have called home our entire lives. The ideas and ideals that founded this very nation and how they have changed since the very first Fourth of July celebration.
I believe, in its infancy, the American Dream was bore to bring hope of restoration to the sick and poor, hope for benefit(s) in hard work and perseverance, and certainly propelled the idea that the result of such would be a successful/thriving society. Inherently, good. However, (like most things, us humans get our hands on) this dream started morphing it into a perverted version of what it once was.
Although I am a Christian, I do not feel you have to be a Christian to recognize the greed that dominates our society. I am reminded of the classic novel, The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald that shed light on this issue decades ago. It illustrated the movement of motivations from a place of healthy and prosperous, to the greedy acquirement of material things. There was significant warning in his writings such as, the pursuit of happiness driven by greed was not in fact attainable because it is inevitable that someone else will always have more. In 2018, I find that most people see that truth as reason to compete even harder.
The American Dream has transformed into The American Delusion. The more we have the happier we will be. Recklessly trading the meaningful things in life for the mundane.
We live in a world of consumerism. I could certainly discuss the need and necessity of this, and quickly teeter off onto a political tangent, but from the most honest place, I assure you this is not the heart of this writing. This is about our constant chase for more, and equating that to happiness. Fighting to bring awareness to this false idol. If this is not something that affects you in any way, all hats off to you my friend! If you would be so generous to share with the rest of us what helped you to abandon this empty way of living and never look back please comment and help the rest of us understand how you conquered that. As for me, however, I know that as long as I live in this world while trying not to conform to its ways, that this will be an area that I need to constantly assess; pulse checks I call it.
I am so grateful for the church that our family calls home. In one of the past services, one of our pastors said, “Happiness is based on happenings; only true joy comes from the LORD.” I have never forgot that; even if sometimes I live like I have.
It was not that long ago that my generation was told that we live in a microwave society; where in just minutes we expect to have whatever we want; how we want it. That the ‘future’ was not something we were as concerned about in the way our ancestors were. That our generation relies more heavily on credit for large purchases versus long term planning and saving. We certainly do not deny short-term pleasures for long-term gain by-and-large… I do dare say we have moved from a microwave society to an InstaPot culture. (Not dissing InstaPots’. I love mine and you can have a dozen hard-boiled eggs in 5 minutes! Get yo’self-one) Regardless, we have moved to a “done yesterday” culture. When we used to purchase something, we would get a flood of satisfaction that most would describe as a feeling of happiness. As the new wore off, we would begin shopping for the ‘next thing.’ We do so with a mentality of “when I get THIS I will be satisfied! It will be enough and I will be happy.” Relying on fleeting emotions, and the satisfaction of material goods to supply our happiness.
Now with an APP for everything, one-click shopping and guaranteed two-day shipping, we can have all of these things delivered right to our door. Happy, or hAPPiness as I call it, delivered right to us. We have even earned the right and privilege to shop for a new couch without sitting on it, or an entire new wardrobe that someone else will shop for. We do not even have to check the condition of produce we shop for; there is an app for that too! #instacart However, when two days is not fast enough, we need something on that day in between. On the day where you come home to no packages on your porch, so we buy more. We try to buy more ‘happy.’ I do not know if there is anything that is more exhausting that chasing happiness. Truly, I say this because I have chased it myself. The trump card to happiness is joy, and I cannot imagine what it would be like to look back knowing I traded artificial happiness for true joy. I say that, yet when I look in my rearview mirror I see that I have made this painful transaction over-and-over again. It is a painful truth.
If you find yourself in a place where you are finding happiness to be more of a stranger than friend. Where you equate happiness and swiping or typing your debit card information. A place where you cannot remember the last time you felt true joy. If you cannot even say you know the feeling of joy let me share with you: YOU ARE NOT ALONE. Believe me you are not too far. However, there is work to be done. I encourage you to take a step back (maybe two or three) and really assess your life. What do you define happiness as? When do you feel you are happy? If true joy only comes from the LORD, what does your relationship with Him right now look like? If it looks like joy only shows up when you have a full cart at Target, upgrade your cell phone, or when you get “that house or that car”, I can assure you God is wanting to work on that. That He is likely waiting for you to turn to him and ask, “LORD, what do you want me to notice here?” Name it. Surrender it.
If we believe life is truly eternal, then it would make sense for us to live that way. Wouldn’t you agree? Therefore, we should spend our money- eternally. We should use our talents- eternally. We should spend our time- eternally.
All I mean by that is making sure that the resources that we have been trusted with are being used in light of eternity and not momentary pleasure alone. Do I believe our God dislikes that we have conveniences like Amazon Prime or InstaPots? No, I do not feel that way at all. In fact, I think He delights in the way it helps us manage our lives more efficiently. However, I do think He is interested in how we spend the extra time that such conveniences allow for us. That instead of slaving over a hot stove for 3 hours, dinner is done in 30 minutes for a family of five. In that scenario, I think it would be his desire that we would look at that 2 hours and 30 minutes saved as a gift. A gift of opportunity to be an even greater kingdom resource.
I am learning everyday what this looks like in my life. In the life of my family. I am reminded frequently of how I head down the wrong path quite easily. How I can be tempted to believe that purchasing something truly does produce joy; when it is actually producing momentary feelings of happiness- just another emotion that is just as unreliable and flighty as the others are. Not that it is bad, yet simply learning to discern the difference. The difference between joy and happiness. Between temporary and eternal. The difference between living for this day versus THAT day. I encourage you friends to explore your heart. Assess your motives. As you do, pray that the LORD would reveal to you what it is He wants for you and your life. I assure you anything He calls you to or from houses a joy that is unspeakable. There is no app for that.