Peace, love, and happiness?

Liz, over at the Daily Warrior challenged many of us to create goals for ourselves for 2017. As a person who generally refrains from New Year’s resolutions, I had to sit and ponder this one for a while. And, then it hit me…

This year, I am letting go of my expectations for ‘happiness’ in exchange for joy and peace.

We live in a fast-paced society that offers us instant gratification on many levels and the opportunity to chase after the proverbial “happiness” that seems to elude so many. We are often led to believe that our happiness depends on external factors, especially when it comes to people and circumstances.

I would be happy if my bank account was huge, I would be happy if I were prettier, I would be happy if he/she would change, I would be happy if I had a big house, I would be happy if I had a better job, I would be happy if I lost weight, I would be happy if I were married to someone else, I would be happy with a fancier car, etc., etc..

I mean, the sentence itself leaves a lot to be desired when we put contingencies on our happiness. I would be happy if…

If what? What would it take to make you happy right now? What floats your boat and melts your butter? And, what if you don’t lose weight, what if people don’t change, what if the bank account doesn’t grow, and what if you wreck that fancy new car?

Happiness itself is an emotion that ebbs and flows like so many of our emotions do. We experience sadness, frustration, jealousy, anger, fear, anticipation, excitement and so on. Emotions in and of themselves are temporary and the state of mind those emotions bring with them are also temporary.

Our emotions do not define us, they are not our identity, and they are not facts. Emotions are, however, part of our human experience and we are tasked with the challenge of being able to manage them appropriately.

Yesterday, what made me happy at 4 o’clock in the afternoon won’t necessarily be the thing that makes me happy tomorrow morning at 10 o’clock.

Our expectation that we can achieve happiness 24/7 by following our ‘hearts’ and doing what ‘feels’ good is not a sound way to live and is the death knell of any relationship or endeavor.

Jeremiah 17:9 gives some insight into the fickle nature of why ‘following our hearts’ and doing what ‘feels good’ is not the wisest way to make our choices:

The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?

There is a toy that my preschooler has a picture of. It came as a fold-out brochure with one of the other toys she got for Christmas. She has been pointing at the picture every single day to let me know how happy that toy would make her. Sure, it would probably make her happy and give her entertainment for an afternoon. But, that toy is not going to be the same desire of her heart a few months from now and it will be especially irrelevant when she is seventeen and has a huge crush on the boy down the street. This is the same child who is convinced that cookies are a suitable breakfast and would make her happy. Yet, as her mother, I know that cookies for breakfast in the long-run is asking for trouble and whatever happiness those cookies could give her today would be so short-lived that the instant gratification of having cookies for breakfast is not worth it. So, I let her throw a fit over not having cookies for breakfast and give her the option of eating what I provide or go hungry. And, I talked to her about chores and good behavior possibly earning her the reward of a new toy, but we will not be getting a new toy just because it will make her happy right now.

Right now, my 10 month-old son would be perfectly happy if I allowed him to roam where he pleased, stick his fingers in electrical outlets, and put everything he comes across into his mouth. He is very unhappy when I thwart his plans for his own safety and protection and he will put on quite a show of lamentations over it, complete with the sad face and crocodile tears.

As a parent, the happiness of my children is not my objective or my end game.

But, how can that be when so many people say all they want is for their children ‘to be happy’?

Sure, I want my children to experience happiness. However, it is more important for them to have a foundation layered in the kind of safety and security that allows peace and contentment to reside long-term, regardless of external factors. My job here isn’t to appease these two small individuals, rather I am to watch out for their best interest, keep them fed, housed, clothed, safe, and teach them. Oh, yes, and to love them mightily.

The things we believe we need to make us happy get so tied into other people, objects, places, or situations that we are inevitably doomed for the big let-down when we depend on these things to ‘make us happy’.

If ‘happiness’ is our goal or relieving ‘unhappiness’ is our motivation, we are probably not likely to act in our own or anyone else’s best interest.

When I married my husband, I was happy to be sure. I made goo-goo eyes at him, swooned like crazy, and felt dizzy and full of butterflies. Those goo-goo eyes eventually changed, the swooning slowed down, and the dizzy butterflies found other things to do and places to go. The happiness drawn from the excitement and anticipation of saying “I do” and being honeymooners eventually gave way to the day-to-day experience of living with a real, live human being with quirks, faults, and flaws. Suddenly, I wasn’t all that happy about his socks showing up everywhere. Some of the choices he was making became infuriating. And, before I knew it, every sound and move this man made seemed to affect me a little too much. It wasn’t until I removed my expectations for happiness and replaced it with the desire to walk in love no matter what that my attitude began to change.

My husband is not responsible for making me happy. My children are not responsible for making me happy. My circumstances are not responsible for making me happy. My happiness is subject to change at any given moment and, if I expect anyone or anything to appease my happiness, I am going to become one very unhappy individual.

I cannot say I am particularly happy changing diapers all day, getting pooped on by small human beings, wrangling the animals, picking up after a grown man, and worrying about the needs of everyone else on a regular basis. I cannot say I am particularly happy about the way my past has played out or the burdens I have had to carry. Right now, it might make me happy to stay in my pajamas in a quiet house and binge-watch a favorite show on Netflix.

But, what about when the show is over?

Happiness is subjective, truly.

I think we tend to seriously confuse happiness, peace, and joy and we can inadvertently hurt ourselves and those around us when we mistakenly believe that ‘happy’ is what we need to go find.

I am the most content and at peace when I know that my husband, children, and animals are safe, their bellies are full, and their needs are met. Even with all of the quirks, faults, and flaws I love my family so deeply that I will take the inconvenience of poopy bottoms, picking up after a grown man, and tending to the animals over my own personal happiness. And, I do not say that as a martyred wife and mother who is just so ‘put out’. I say that as a woman whose heart truly craves these people. Even if I am not always happy with them or what is going on, I experience so much joy just having them in my life that the daily challenges are worth it.

Even God Himself is not as concerned with my happiness as He is the condition I am in to withstand all the trials that have come and will continue to come my way. Because, yes, this life is full of ups, downs, traumas, trials, adversities, and inconveniences that do not make for a very happy mood. As someone who has walked in chronic post-traumatic stress, wrestled with depression, and struggles with anxiety, let me tell you, there is no greater coping skill than learning how to manage emotions and keeping them appropriately placed.

I have experienced a life of being governed by my emotions and external factors and there is no freedom in that. I once believed I would be happy only if…

My husband is going to let me down, my children are going to frustrate me and disappoint me, and I am not always going to be happy with what is going on around me. But, underneath it all, I can still have the kind of joy and peace that comes from knowing Who my source for all I need is.

We are not guaranteed ‘happy’, we are not promised ‘happy’.

We are, however, promised peace in the midst of it all and I am holding onto that.

In the meantime, I am going to love hard, pray harder, forgive much, and put my hope in the Lord where it belongs.


91 thoughts on “Peace, love, and happiness?”

  1. So many dimension of happiness with so many examples, to be true confused me but yes I do agree with you that happiness and expectation must not be connected.
    Happiness to me is a state of mind which mivht look like attached to a materialistic things, but it is not true.
    Lovely and confusing post.

    Liked by 3 people

  2. JD, I love this as it relates to our posts for this year on Contentment. Just today, I am working in the last stages of my latest book, GOD Is Our Goal. I see Him working through so many of our fellow bloggers toward that goal that He has for all of us. I enjoy reading how you and other parents are looking to Him alone for wisdom in your parental guidance. Blessings for the day ~ Fran

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Joy is so profoundly different from happy. Joy is a fruit of the spirit and comes as we cultivate our faith life, not when we set out to create it. Joy is grace, unasked for, present in some of the most appalling situations. I once was flooded with deep joy sitting by a woman in the last hours of her life, however unlikely that might seem to someone. Not happy that she was dying! Just bathing in the love God had for her and me and the nurses.

    Liked by 4 people

  4. Very good thoughts.. It sometimes takes a while to learn about the difference between ‘happiness’ and ‘joy’… to put our emotional health at risk, counting on someone or something to make us happy and feel good about ourselves.. ‘been there done that’ (in the past) I know better of course now…. I think that is one of the root causes of depression; wanting ‘things or people or circumstances’ to make us feel better about our life… Diane

    Liked by 3 people

  5. “This year, I am letting go of my expectations for โ€˜happinessโ€™ in exchange for joy and peace.” — Just what I needed to hear today and add to the manifesto I posted. I have been looking for joy and happiness in the wrong places but only God never let go of me and helped me crossed over that journey of understanding.

    Liked by 2 people

  6. Wow JD, this is filled with wisdom. So many people are looking for happiness instead of living out the peace Christ died to give them. I loved this! Thanks for using your gift with words to bless so many. God uses you, my friend!! p.s. Sorry, I’ve been away from writing and reading since before the New Year. I’m ready to dive in again. ((Hugs))

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Yes yes yes! Happiness is finite and can leave us wanting. It is finding meaning in life that is infinite–with this we can experience the ranges of human emotions, learn, grow in love and connection, and find peace in times of turmoil and times of “happiness”. And it’s not easy, there isn’t always instant gratification. Wonderful post! Peace to you and your family. โค๏ธ

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Amen. I don’t even know what would make me “Happy” most of the time. I saw someone on here with a #365daysofhappiness social media challenge. I was like, “Okay. I can get on board with that, so long as we all agree at the outset that we will not be happy everyday.” Gracious. I do wish you much joy and peace this year.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yeah, I think expecting to be happy day in and day out is setting ourselves up for disappointment. The reality is, it doesn’t work that way. A positive mindset is what can push us beyond the bumps, ups, and downs! Happiness is too subjective to depend on. And, many wishes for peace back to you! ๐Ÿ™‚


  9. I think your post is all about the esoteric Art of Living, chased by all but discovered by few. HapPiness is a state of mind, nd shud be found within! Enjoyed reading your post!
    Thank you so much for stopping by my blog nd appreciating it! Best wishes ๐Ÿ™‚

    Liked by 1 person

  10. You seem like a monk to me
    All sorted out
    Respect and much love
    I normally don’t like long articles
    But I didn’t want this one to end
    You are an inspiration to many
    Such a great mother raising disciplined kids
    I was raised in that manner too and I love and respect my mom and she is the one person I confide in for everything
    I can eat almost anything that’s edible and healthy
    And your take on doing what is right and saying no to chocolate like instant gratification is amazing and inspiring
    Hooked on to your future articles
    Hope your little monsters grow up to love and respect you immensely
    Much love

    Liked by 2 people

  11. Excellent. I believe many confuse happiness and joy for the same thing, but happiness comes and goes but joy is constant once one understands that joy is not without trials and tribulations but the knowing that God is with us in the sunshine on a clear blue day and in the darkest storm. Thank you so much for this post.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Hola! I’ve been reading your weblog for some time now and finally got the
    courage to go ahead and give you a shout out from Atascocita Tx!
    Just wanted to tell you keep up the fantastic job!

    Liked by 1 person

  13. So very well said I couldn’t add a thing to this post! You did a great job of explaining the futility of chasing after happiness, and placing your life in the hands of the Lord. He is the Giver of peace and joy, which are much more stable and lasting than happiness alone.


    Liked by 1 person

  14. Your post reminds me of a film I recently watched called “Hector and the Search for Happiness.” In this film, we learn that it is the supposed small things that truly matter.. and as you explain so beautifully in your post here it is about the journey rather than the goal xx Thanks for sharing such intimate moments, such as the relationship with your husband, as it reminds me that we are our own source of happiness โค

    Liked by 2 people

  15. This is a wonderful essay. You have put into words exactly what I am wrestling with. No one is happy 24/7 and if they say they are, then they are not being honest. Joy on the other hand is what keeps me going–“the joy of the Lord is my strength.” I am trying to focus on Jesus: His love, His strength, His power, His peace. It is from Him that we get joy. Thank you so much for sharing the realness of your daily struggles and what brings joy to you (and some happiness too)!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for commenting. I try to treasure the happiness when I have those moments and cling to the joy when we don’t. Some days that may go better than others, but I love the reminder that “the joy of the Lord is my strength”. He is and it is! ๐Ÿ™‚

      Liked by 1 person

  16. Almost every time I read one of your posts, it echoes, underlines, supports or coincides with something I have experienced or read about earlier in the day. It is almost as if the validation I need/needed can be found here.
    Today I was dealing with emotions with my therapist, which made me hunt for a book I have tucked away in a cupboard called ‘SOS for Emotions’ – how to manage your emotions. And then I come here and you devote a whole section of your post to it. Surely that is not just coincidence? Thank you for sharing JD. Much of this resonates with me – I’ve had my share of picking up after grown men. lol

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I am glad it could help! I am such a feelings based person that it is difficult at times to keep all of those feelings in perspective. It took a long time to finally grasp walking by faith and not by sight (feelings, touch, sound, etc.). I think even the gospel can become very feelings-led, which we need to be wary of. I may have to investigate that book you mentioned!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Thanks JD! I know you studied psychology, so you are more likely one step ahead of me regarding understanding emotions. Your post is comprehensive and touches on matters which affect us all, Christians or not. It is not only very well written but deeply profound, and your illustrations citing your own life give clarity.
        I am on the computer really early this morning, so don’t have that book to hand, but will send you details in another message (author etc).
        Blessings ๐Ÿ™‚

        Liked by 2 people

      2. Aww you’re welcome JD. I said I’d get back about the book, but you probably won’t need to get a copy, you seem to be quite an expert anyway! ๐Ÿ™‚
        SOS Help for Emotions – Managing Anxiety, Anger & Depression by Lynn Clark, Ph.D.

        Liked by 1 person

  17. Bonjour ou Bonsoir SHATTERED IN HIM

    Quand je suis de passage sur ton blog

    Je le regarde et j’aperรงois une grande lumiรจre

    Je me dis que sur celui-ci, j’ai une personne

    avec de la gentillesse dans le cล“ur

    Cette amitiรฉ est pour moi un paysage

    Oรน on y viens qui efface les moindres petits nuages

    L’amitiรฉ ce n’est pas un feu de bois, loin de lร 

    C’est de partager ensemble

    Des moments intenses de toute beautรฉ

    Merci ร  toi, d’รชtre lร 

    C’est un pur bonheur rempli de douceur

    Passe une belle journรฉe ou une belle soirรฉe

    Bisous , Bernard


    Liked by 1 person

  18. Very well said! I too, believe that happiness is situational and depends on circumstances. However the fruit of the Holy Spirit is love joy peace etc. when we allow those three to take root, then the other fruits are cultivated. I appreciate your blog so much! You really delve deep into the matter at hand!

    Liked by 1 person

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