Wednesday, October 20, 2010
Have Faith, Be Happy?
Last week, Bonnie Gray over at Faith Barista posed this question for her ongoing blogging jam on faith: How does your faith connect to your happiness?
I thought back to something that happened to a friend of mine many years ago. She walked out on her husband and children to (eventually) marry a co-worker. And her reason was that “God wants me to be happy.” Well, that was the reason she gave. It was a lot more personally palatable to say that than “I’m destroying my family because I think I’ve fallen in love with another man.” In a real sense, she was assigning responsibility for her own actions to God.
I’ve been suspicious of happiness ever since.
It’s not one of the major themes of the Bible. There are about 20 references to words translated as happy, including quite a few in Psalms. But happiness as a concept is mostly connected to obedience and service. There is no statement or passage or teaching in the Bible that could conceivably be stretched to justify abandoning your family because “God wants me to be happy.”
The point of the universe is not our individual happiness. Somewhere along the line we decided that the Declaration of Independence (our creator endowing us with certain inalienable rights of “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness”) was biblical. The pursuit of happiness may be American, but that doesn’t translate into happiness being the point of our faith, or why God created us in the first place.
We’re called to be faithful. That doesn’t mean we’re called to be happy. Nor does being faithful mean that we will automatically be happy, at least in the sense we understand it.
I think of happiness as a temporal, and temporary, thing. Too many things can overcome it. It’s more a fleeting emotion as opposed to a steady state of being. If someone asked me if I was a happy person, I would have to think about it, but I think I would say I consider myself a blessed person, and that’s more important than my notions of happiness.
To see more posts about faith and happiness, visit Bonnie at Faith Barista.
Photograph: Happy Face by Vera Kratochvil via Public Domain Pictures. Used with permission.