Thursday, November 6, 2014

Happiness Is Not the Goal

Happiness is not the goal.  Or so we were told at the women’s conference, Parallel Universe, and in our recent series, Church Gone Wild.  I remember learning this at church as a little girl.  I remember being told we should look for joy rather than happiness, and we should put others’ happiness before our own.  As I’ve grown up and experienced the fickleness of being happy, I have a much deeper understanding of the difference between happiness and joy.  I choose joy, but it often comes long after a decision is made.  If happiness is not supposed to be our filter for decision-making, what is?
The answer you might expect is Jesus.  What does that really mean, though?  For a long time, I thought it meant I had to figure out “God’s will for my life” before I made a big decision. 

Consequently, I have gone through much of life wondering if I am following God’s will, but that’s a silly way to think about it.  If decisions really came down to one of two outcomes, God’s will or not God’s will, then I would be permanently out of God’s will from the first time I made the “wrong” decision.  I could never go back and take the other path.

Of course, if the decision is about whether or not to obey God, right and wrong, then I know which direction I should go, but the vast majority of decisions are not simple right or wrong options.  At most crossroads in life, all of the options can be within the will of God.  To quote Scott Nickell from a Perspectives class last year, “the will of God is a wide open space.”

God’s will as a wide open space, rather than a straight line, can be a pretty freeing idea.  God gave us a free will to make decisions.  He wants us to choose to follow Him, but He doesn’t have one predetermined path mapped out for us from which we should never stray.  Beyond the decision to follow Jesus, how do we decide which direction to pursue in life?  What should we be aiming for?

I think the answer is God’s glory.  That Perspectives class has been rolling around in my brain for over a year now.  I am still trying to digest the meaning of it, which is this:  Our purpose in life is God’s glory.  God created us for His glory. (Isaiah 43:6-7)  Jesus died for God’s glory. (John 12:27-28)  Jesus wants us to see and enjoy His glory.  (John 17:24)  Focusing on God’s glory takes the spotlight away from my life.  My decisions, though they seem huge sometimes, are not really about me.  Jesus sought the glory of God his Father all the time, (John 7:18) so that’s what I should do, right?  The more I ruminate on this idea, the more profound it is to me, and I confess I am still trying to wrap my brain around it.

But back to that happiness issue.  I am facing a big decision, and I know which choice would make me happy, but I’m struggling to figure out which choice will bring more glory to God.  Sometimes I wonder how this decision could possibly matter to God and His glory.  At other times, I take comfort in the fact that God does know about this thing weighing on me, and He cares what I do.  Using the pursuit of God’s glory as my filter doesn’t make my decisions easier, but hopefully it will make them better.  God will be glorified, and His glory is infinitely less fickle than my happiness. 

Ursula has been a part of the Flatirons community for 2 1/2 years.  She has been married to her husband Kyle for 11 years, and they live in Boulder.  She likes to run (slowly, not one of those crazy fast Boulderites) and is always up for a good book. 

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