Genuine happiness worth some genuine sacrifices

"Happiness is worth a lot to me," a good friend, colleague, and mentor of mine once told his boss as he made a decision that would lead to his leaving the company.

"Well, so what? Isn't happiness worth a lot to everybody?" his boss replied.

"No," my friend replied truthfully and I think with unusual wisdom, "it is not–not to everybody."

I've thought of that exchange often. My friend's words may mean more when I tell you that he is very motivated and one of the best businessmen I know.

I haven't conducted any polls, scientific or otherwise, to shed light on the percentages involved, but I'd speculate that more people than not so "naturally" equate "bigger and more" with better and happier–a bigger title, a bigger salary, more responsibility, more prestige, more power, increased "upward mobility," etc.–that they hardly even consider that "bigger and more" might not mean "happier."

Oh, it might. Aside from the fact that none of us can actually "make" anybody happy and that people who really want to be unhappy are almost always very good at getting their wish, sometimes, though not nearly as often as we think, bigger and more actually is better.

I have known some remarkably unselfish and praiseworthy folks who seem absolutely gifted by God in leadership, business skill, organization-building, etc., who have honored God in everything they've done. And they seem happy to me.

But every bit as impressive to me are folks I know who have realized that, in this decision or that goal, if they didn't believe God was calling them in one direction or the other, if it was more a career choice than a moral choice, more a geographical choice than a spiritual choice, they recognized that real happiness often lies in living "peaceful and quiet lives" and "being content with what you have." I can hardly imagine two biblical admonitions that would more squarely slap our sick society full across the face!

But what good, after all, is a bigger house if the job you've taken to pay for it means you are never home?

A very common and oft-repeated error some people make, author Philip Gulley writes, is to "mistake contentment for stagnation." In truth, the most genuinely productive, creative, and joyful people I know are those who are among the most deeply contented.

Trust the Lord for your true contentment. Do your job "as honoring the Lord." And I suspect that more than a few opportunities will come your way for advancement.

But be sure to look them over carefully and prayerfully. Not every opportunity for advancement is an opportunity for increased happiness or real contentment or genuine service. Even if this world can't begin to understand Christ's words, God's people can believe them: "A man's life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions."

Happy indeed is the person who knows that more money, more power, more prestige does not necessarily mean more genuine happiness.

Curtis Shelburne is pastor of 16th & Ave. D. Church of Christ in Muleshoe. Contact him at

ckshel@aol.com

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