What is happiness? We see it all around us in movies, songs, TV, etc. Although I haven’t counted, I bet there are millions of books that try to tell you the secret to being happy–whether it be a book about money, sex, beauty, success, or even religion. Quotes say, “Happiness is not a destination; it’s a journey” and “life is what you make of it.” Do we even know what these mean?
In my three Bibles of different translations, happy and/or happiness is not mentioned ONCE in the concordance. So what is happiness?
Today I sit outside on the patio outside of my apartment. It’s the end of February, and yet it is warm and sunny–a beautiful day. All I feel, though, is empty of “happiness.” Why? Because I’ve suddenly realized that I’ve spent almost all of my life pursuing happiness, and I never even knew what the word meant. Everything that I’ve done in my life now seems to be part of just some method–a “become a better person” scheme, a “how to be successful” plan, or a “you’ll have joy once you can wear size 2 jeans” state of mind.
The most meaningful, joy-filled, and overwhelmingly challenge-filled thing that I have ever done is this: being a camp counselor.
Every single day, I was challenged. There were days when I hated it. There were times when I just about lost it. My temper would flare. My patience would be gone, and tears would be on the brink of flooding the dam of my tear ducts. But then, I would close my eyes. I would breathe. I would remember….God is love (1 John 4:8).
Those campers were not just 9 and 10 year-old girls. They were the love of Christ Himself. They were the embodiment of everything that Jesus calls us to be, to live for, and for what we should abandon our lives.
In all of my life, I have never loved anything more than the times I spent loving those precious girls. Holding them tightly in my arms and rocking them back to look into their sweet faces, I would witness God’s great beauty. “You are my precious angel,” I would say. “I love you so much, but do you know who loves you even more?” Their faces would crinkle to a look of contemplation, and I would tell them, “Jesus! He is your best friend, and He loves you more than you could ever imagine!”
Even now, I wouldn’t trade anything for that summer I spent wiping away tears of homesickness, sitting on a toilet seat covered in deodorant, writing bedtime stories to read as their devotionals, conducting marriage ceremonies to tubes of chapstick, and paying 2 slices of gum for a 5 second massage.
That is happiness. That is living completely void of one’s own self and living solely by the love, the strength, and the grace that God gives. We have to empty ourselves of what we value, pursue, and hope to receive and we must be filled constantly with the renewing and redeeming love that only Jesus gives.
Of this I am convinced:
True happiness is the receipt that we are given
when we have exchanged
our knowledge for His knowledge,
our strength for His strength,
our heart for His heart,
and have sold our life
–its desires, ambitions, and meanings–
for His life lived through us.