You may have heard this idea. “Do what makes you happy. If something doesn’t make you happy, don’t do it.”
This is generally good advice.
I like to write. If you know me well enough, that’s no surprise. But writing isn’t always easy work. Sometimes it is harder than getting out of bed after a night of tossing and turning. When you write about your pain, there is a sense of release mixed with the pain of sharing a dark moment. But as a writer, if I hold it all inside, I hurt more than I do when I share.
Of course, I have some control over the amount of sharing I do.
When a particular piece of writing touches someone and they tell me about it, I feel happiness.
I’m not happy about paying taxes. If I followed the advice in the opening paragraph, I would quit doing it. After all, if paying taxes makes me unhappy then I should just stop.
Of course, you know that isn’t possible.
If I don’t pay those joy-sapping taxes, then I’ll have to spend a lot of time looking over my shoulder. The government can take away all my goodies if I decide to keep the money they consider to be theirs.
The problem with this quote is that instead of just choosing to be happy wherever you find yourself, you’re drawing happiness from something external. It can be an activity, a circumstance, or an object. You might root your happiness in other people. This is frought with danger because people can let you down. Things can break. Circumstances often are outside your complete control, if indeed you have any control over them at all.
The trick is to realize that doing what makes you happy is quite all right. Avoiding what makes you sad, depressed, or angry is just human nature. Life offers no guarantee that all your ships will sail into harbor without barnacles, breakage, or bitterness. If you’re in the middle of the ocean, and you’re not happy, tithe only way out is to go to shore, have a helicopter rescue you, or die.
Invest your happiness in something that never changes. If you know God, find your joy in Him. He keeps all his promises. He will never leave you when life fills your fridge with sour lemons, rotten potatoes, and maggot-infested porridge. He won’t turn His back when you get fired for the seventh time. He won’t disown you when your spouse tells you she hates you more than the feeling of ice picks being driven under her fingernails.
Even your best friend might not stick with you through all that.
Throw your anchor into God and be happy in every circumstance. Attach it to a speeding car and you’ll spend your life chasing happiness, only to give up when the car is out of sight and the skin on your knees no longer covers your bones.
Which will you choose?