It’s all about me and what makes me happy!
Of course, it’s all about me and what makes me happy! Didn’t your parents say that all the time? “I just want you to be happy?” Who wouldn’t trade a happy kid for a screaming kid? And the educational system reinforces the idea that it’s all about me and what makes me happy.
Do you remember the school assignment that you completed “All About Me”? Poems, narratives, songs, raps, art projects, picture displays, family trees, and a myriad of other activities were employed to describe characteristics such as “What makes me happy”; “Where I live”; and “What I want to be when I grow up.” What a challenge to communicate everything that makes me happy! Even in our earliest years, happiness is featured as the ultimate goal in life.
We all deserve to be happy.
In our line of thinking, we want to be happy. God wants us to be happy. We want our spouses to be happy. And we want our kids to be happy. We just want everyone to be happy. We especially want everyone to be happy with us. This is the American dream—we all deserve to be happy. But the American dream spawns the American nightmare. The pursuit of this dream leads to addiction, deviance, mental illness, and death because it is ultimately based in self-centeredness.
Those who are dominated by the sinful nature think about sinful things, but those who are controlled by the Holy Spirit think about things that please the Spirit. So letting your sinful nature control your mind leads to death. But letting the Spirit control your mind leads to life and peace. For the sinful nature is always hostile to God. It never did obey God’s laws, and it never will.Romans 8:5–7 NLT
Can I be happy without God?
In the post Can you spot the counterfeit fruit of the Spirit? we elaborated on the fact that people continue in their self-effort and then blame God for their struggles. The person who is not willing to die to the flesh and live unto the Spirit will suffer because he does not want to let go of self-effort. The lack of connectedness to Jesus is really the result of a decision to not die to self.
We are tempted to look at the world around us and point to people we believe are successful. “So-and-so makes good choices and does just fine without God.” But whose perspective really counts? How many times have we been convinced that a particular couple has the perfect marriage only to hear they are getting a divorce? But even if the person under consideration who is apart from God believes, “I am just fine, thank you very much,” God’s Word clarifies the absolute truth.
We can only be the best of what we are.
At our best, we cannot be more than what we are apart from Christ. If we can’t be other than what we are, then it would stand to reason that at most we could only be the best of what we are. The issue of concern now is “What am I?” “What do I really consist of?” If there is no good in us, then the best of what we are is devoid of goodness. If there is no love in us, then the best of what we are is devoid of love. And if we are deceived, the best of what we are is living out our deception. If we are sinful, then the best of what we can do is to live out our sinfulness.
As the Scriptures say,
“No one is righteous—Romans 3:10–18 NLT
not even one.
No one is truly wise;
no one is seeking God.
All have turned away;
all have become useless.
No one does good,
not a single one.”
“Their talk is foul, like the stench from an open grave.
Their tongues are filled with lies.”
“Snake venom drips from their lips.”
“Their mouths are full of cursing and bitterness.”
“They rush to commit murder.
Destruction and misery always follow them.
They don’t know where to find peace.”
“They have no fear of God at all.”
This is the human being in our natural condition, unaided by the Spirit of God.
I want Christianity to make me happy.
Even within Christianity, we have made room for our own carnality. We want to follow God in a manner that seems interesting and stimulating to our flesh. Our walk becomes infected with selfish ambition and vain conceit, while we wear the garb of the righteous. Because we do not know how to connect to the Holy Spirit, we contrive our own version of His will: “It would make me happy to do what God wants, and I believe God wants me to . . .”
As we learn to understand and obey His commands directly outlined in His Word, it becomes easier to listen and follow His still small voice when He specifically whispers to our hearts. But our quenching of the Holy Spirit is almost as frequent as His convicting of our sinfulness. Pursuing the flesh then becomes the mission of our faith. The issue is for self to be promoted and preserved while we pose as those who walk with God.
Outwardly you look like righteous people, but inwardly your hearts are filled with hypocrisy and lawlessness.Matthew 23:28 NLT
It can’t be all about me and all about Christ.
So we are lying if we say we have fellowship with God but go on living in spiritual darkness; we are not practicing the truth. But if we are living in the light, as God is in the light, then we have fellowship with each other, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, cleanses us from all sin.1 John 1:6–7 NLT
The condition of “living in spiritual darkness” can be exemplified in statements such as “I love the Lord,” “I’m trusting Him,” and “I’m willing to do whatever He wants me to do.” These assertions are proven to be false in our lives when they infringe on what we want. Then we are quick to abandon our professed loyalties to God in pursuit of what will make us comfortable. We deviate from His path to follow our own agenda. It can’t be all about me and what makes me happy if I have committed my life to follow Christ.
Fulfilling my agenda of achieving happiness
The reality is that we live for the purpose of fulfilling our agenda of achieving happiness. It is difficult for us to admit we have an agenda; we want to deny selfish ambition in our decision-making processes. But the Bible reveals the hidden truth.
“The human heart is the most deceitful of all things,Jeremiah 17:9–10 NLT
and desperately wicked.
Who really knows how bad it is?
But I, the Lord, search all hearts
and examine secret motives.
I give all people their due rewards,
according to what their actions deserve.”
Disturbing realities about my happiness
We want to be able to disguise our self-centeredness. Who wants to be labeled as selfish? It sounds nice to have it be all about me and what makes me happy. But it doesn’t sound so nice to say, “I’m selfish. Give me what I want!” And we are incapable of accurately evaluating ourselves. God must reveal our condition to us as we draw so close to Him that His light can make all things clear. We come to God without truth, because truth brings us to God. When the truth is revealed, we may be surprised to find these disturbing realities:
- My agenda is whatever will make me happy.
- I do not want to come to God to complete His agenda.
- I want to come to God so He can empower my agenda.
- Instead of serving God, I want God to serve me.
- I want to be self-centered, and I want God to approve.
- I want God to help me be more independent, more self-sufficient.
- And I want God to empower me to not need Him.
- I do not just want to be independent, I want to be happy.
- Ultimately, I want all God’s benefits in addition to all my desires.
I don’t need anyone unless they promote my happiness.
Living for the purpose of fulfilling our own agenda is the result of seeing ourselves as independent. We believe we are capable of handling our own lives. We believe we don’t need anyone guiding our lives. And we don’t need God except for His assistance in fulfilling our will. We see God and others as relevant only as they cooperate with what we want.
When God and others do not fulfill our expectations, we develop anger and resentment. We are not happy because God has not measured up to our expectations, nor have others fulfilled our expectations. God cannot be trusted. God has been dishonest. Instead of condemning self, we condemn God. Either way, we move toward dependency on ourselves instead of God.
I want God to make it all about me and what makes me happy.
Distortions result in our belief system when we allow ourselves to become judgmental. We say, “If God loved me, God would do what I want Him to do. If you loved me, you would do what I want you to do.” Toxic hurt and disappointment flow from the notion that if God valued us He would have met our expectations. Because He didn’t meet our expectations, He doesn’t value us. If God doesn’t value us, He doesn’t care. Therefore, we cannot depend on Him, and we must do it all ourselves and become our own god. What a terrible downward cycle is produced!
Having now ascended to the throne of our own lives, we seek to meet our perceived needs by exploiting others. Not only do we become our own god, but we also position ourselves as a god in the lives of others. We convey the philosophy, “I know what is your best interest. Do it my way and happiness will be achieved.” We place ourselves in the role of god and assert that if an individual follows our prescriptions that person will be blessed. What a contradiction to God’s design.
“You will be happy when you make me happy.”
Since we operate on the idea that everything around us is designed for our own fulfillment, we think another’s happiness will be achieved when that person fulfills our agenda. We are not exploiting the person, just redefining our role as his or her savior. We say, essentially, “If you do it my way, your needs will be met. You will be happy when you make me happy.”
The reality of our hidden agenda reveals that whenever possible we’re going to work to satisfy our own will. Control is our way of life, our passion, what gets us out of bed in the morning.
What I want to be when I grow up
Jubilantly, biblical truth redefines happiness. Happiness, by God’s standard, is a state of well-being that is independent of all that is of this earth and dependent on all that is divine. It is the outcome of connecting to God in a manner that changes the innermost parts of our souls, giving rise to the fruit of His spirit. The protective barrier of truth that wards off anything that would attack our courage maintains this happiness.
Look here, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we are going to a certain town and will stay there a year. We will do business there and make a profit.” How do you know what your life will be like tomorrow? Your life is like the morning fog—it’s here a little while, then it’s gone. What you ought to say is, “If the Lord wants us to, we will live and do this or that.” Otherwise you are boasting about your own pretentious plans, and all such boasting is evil.
Remember, it is sin to know what you ought to do and then not do it.James 4:13–17 NLT
The happiness spoken of in the Bible exists apart from worldly endeavors. Contrary to human wisdom, we do not need the right people, the right positions, or the right possessions to be happy.
Don’t put your confidence in powerful people;Psalm 146:3 NLT
there is no help for you there.
Then he said, “Beware! Guard against every kind of greed. Life is not measured by how much you own.”Luke 12:15 NLT
Happiness my way
The pursuit of happiness through the avenues of life resources is sure to lead to the loss of happiness and will establish the foundation for all varieties of addiction. To independently seek happiness constitutes the surest way to become lost amid the maze of life’s self-centered options.
Then he told them a story: “A rich man had a fertile farm that produced fine crops. He said to himself, ‘What should I do? I don’t have room for all my crops.’ Then he said, ‘I know! I’ll tear down my barns and build bigger ones. Then I’ll have room enough to store all my wheat and other goods. And I’ll sit back and say to myself, “My friend, you have enough stored away for years to come. Now take it easy! Eat, drink, and be merry!” ’
“But God said to him, ‘You fool! You will die this very night. Then who will get everything you worked for?’
“Yes, a person is a fool to store up earthly wealth but not have a rich relationship with God.”Luke 12:16–21 NLT
Pursue truth not happiness.
Solomon asserts that we are to pursue truth, not happiness. Why? People are incapable of discerning what is in their best interest. Proverbs cites the following reasons:
- We are given to self-justification.
“All a man’s ways seem right to him.” (Proverbs 21:2 NIV)
- We are not capable of being satisfied.
“Just as Death and Destruction are never satisfied,
so human desire is never satisfied.” (Proverbs 27:20 NLT)
- We are given to a delusion of happiness.
“They are pure in their own eyes,
but they are filthy and unwashed.” (Proverbs 30:12 NLT)
- We allow pride to prevail.
“Pride goes before destruction,
and haughtiness before a fall.” (Proverbs 16:18 NLT)
So what is the solution?
“Get the truth and never sell it;
also get wisdom, discipline, and good judgment.” (Proverbs 23:23 NLT)
“Don’t be impressed with your own wisdom.
Instead, fear the Lord and turn away from evil.” (Proverbs 3:7 NLT)
Encountering God produces happiness.
The issue of happiness is introduced in “The Blessed Man” passages of Scripture. Happiness, however, does not generally appear as the subject of these passages, but rather the adjective describing the state of those who are rightly connected to God. The truly blessed man, or the happy person, should not seek to enjoy happiness as a primary pursuit, but should rather seek to connect with God.
Happiness occurs as the by-product of connecting to God. It is self-indulgence that motivates us to connect to God for the attainment of happiness. Often Christianity is billed as the elixir of life to ensure happiness. This misses the mark of Christianity’s real purpose—to experience God through the blood of Jesus Christ and to glorify Him. Encountering God produces happiness. To avoid the “What’s in it for me?” syndrome, happiness must not be held up as the ultimate virtue for the Christian.
Why come to Jesus if not to gain happiness?
You may ask, “Then why would a person come to Jesus if not to gain happiness?” The Bible asserts that we were drawn to God not by the potential of happiness but by the aura of His glory and virtue.
And because of his glory and excellence, he has given us great and precious promises. These are the promises that enable you to share his divine nature and escape the world’s corruption caused by human desires.2 Peter 1:4 NLT
Upon being enlightened by God, His image within us attracts us to Himself. By Him we were created, through Him we consist, for Him we exist. Thus for Him we yearn.
Reconciliation to God is the core need of the soul; therefore, connection to Christ becomes our deepest desire. We come to God because it is within His design that we need someone who is greater than ourselves to direct our lives. Our souls long for God and the fellowship He offers through the forgiveness of sins and the communion of His Spirit. If I merely come to Christ to feel good, believing I can escape hell, this fire insurance will not keep my house from burning down or my soul from eternal separation from God.
Meeting Jesus is life-changing.
Jesus spoke of the spiritual encounter with His Father to the Samaritan woman.
“But the time is coming—indeed it’s here now—when true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and in truth. The Father is looking for those who will worship Him that way. For God is Spirit, so those who worship Him must worship in spirit and in truth.”John 4:23–24 NLT
The spirit Jesus spoke of was the spirit of our own souls where God desires to encounter us. The human soul is the temple of the Spirit where we meet with God to commune with Him personally. Each one of us possesses our own personal temple; our own personal rooms where we may, at any time, sit and encounter God in meaningful fellowship—heart to heart. Judging from the Samaritan woman’s response to meeting Jesus spiritually, we must attest to the fact that such an encounter is life-changing.
The woman said, “I know the Messiah is coming—the one who is called Christ. When He comes, He will explain everything to us.” Then Jesus told her, “I AM the Messiah!’”. . . The woman left her water jar beside the well and ran back to the village, telling everyone, “Come and see a man who told me everything I ever did! Could He possibly be the Messiah?”John 4:25–29 NLT
Spirituality enabled this woman to see beyond Jesus’ humanity into His deity. Perhaps the reason it is so hard to experience Jesus as real and relevant is because we are not seeking Him in spirit and truth.
But I want it to be all about me and what makes me happy!
Many attempt to substitute another process for this dynamic one. They would rather connect to happiness through sensuality, sexuality, emotionality, and all varieties of counterfeits. They would rather bypass spirituality, except when it may be used to gain false assurance, and seek happiness through compulsive behaviors that either stimulate or sedate.
Unless our lives are God-centered, we are self-centered. We place ourselves in the position of God and try to fulfill His role in the lives of the people around us. In our delusion, we strive to satisfy our desires while exploiting life resources.
God did not design happiness as our life goal.
In order to be desperately dependent on God we must confront the deception—our independence is leading us away from Him. It is essential to experience Him as relevant in every area of our lives while we apply truth concerning Jesus to the challenges of our lives. When we see Christ as relevant in our lives, we desire Him. As we desire Him, we draw into a closer love relationship with Him. Repentance is required to turn from our self-indulgence to finding our satisfaction in Christ alone. He is all we need.
The ultimate reality is that God did not design happiness as our life goal. God designed us to be in an intimate relationship with Him. Therefore, all of our life endeavors should be fostering our connection to Him as we conform to His image.
Psalm 86 Prayer Pattern to rely on God for my happiness.
Use Psalm 86 as a Prayer Pattern to rely on God for your happiness. You know that life can’t be all about you and what makes you happy. But your life is supposed to be all about God. Use Psalms Prayer Patterns to pour out your heart to God while acknowledging your weakness and His strength, as you grow deeper in your relationship with Him.
- What is my personal agenda for my life? You may want to review the list of “disturbing realities”
- What am I pursuing to make me happy?
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Excerpts from Desperate Dependency by J. Kirk & Melanie D. Lewis.
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