The Answer to the Elusiveness of Happiness

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Happiness is often described as elusive, but it may not be as hard to find as we think. The problem may lie in how and where we seek happiness. The remedy is realistic expectations, as Jesus said true happiness only comes from God.

Why is happiness so elusive?

“Happiness is a butterfly, which when pursued, is always just beyond your grasp, but which, if you will sit down quietly, may alight upon you.”

– Nathaniel Hawthorne, American writer

According to psychologists, happiness is not only elusive – it’s complicated. It is more than just one thing. Psychologists have been putting a strong focus on studying happiness since the 1960s, and according to Psychology Today: “In the 1990s, a psychologist named Martin Seligman led the positive psychology movement, which placed the study of human happiness and living a good life squarely at the center of psychological research and theory.”

However, according to studies, self-reported measures of happiness have stayed the same or stagnant for over forty years.

Besides the aforementioned fact that happiness isn’t a singular thing, as humans, we also have a tendency to romanticize the past or the future, deluding ourselves that both are better than the present.

Always chasing the thing that will “make us happy”

There is a concept psychologists call a hedonistic treadmill, where we work very hard toward a goal in the anticipation of the happiness it will bring. But once we reach the goal, we quickly slide back and are unhappy again. Then, we start chasing the next thing we believe will lead to our happiness. Thus, happiness remains always elusive.

Additionally, we have a misguided notion that we should be happy all the time.

Looking for happiness in the wrong places

“I perceived that there is nothing better for them than to be joyful and to do good as long as they live;”

–Ecclesiastes 3:12

An old GRAMMY-winning American country song featured in the movie Urban Cowboy, had the title of “Looking For Love In All The Wrong Places,” and the same could be said when it comes to looking for happiness.

Many people try to find happiness outside of themselves. They seek happiness through a career, success in some area, material possessions, accumulation of wealth, the company of another person, or even as something as simple as losing weight. But the problem is that all of these things have the potential to only bring temporary happiness. We find a degree of happiness for a time, but sooner or later it may evaporate.

Sometimes we are pursuing the wrong things altogether. The pursuit of material goods and money never leads to lasting happiness. The song by the late rapper, the Notorious B.I.G., entitled “Mo Money Mo Problems” says it all in the title alone.

“For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs. But you, man of God, flee from all this, and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance and gentleness.”

– 1 Timothy 6:10-11

Nowhere is this perhaps more blatantly obvious than in the studies of lottery winners. Time and again, it is proven that money won’t buy lasting happiness. This is one area where psychology and theology degree.

Lasting happiness

“Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart.”

– Psalm 37:4

Happiness doesn’t come from a thing or someone, is state of mind.

“Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice.”

–Philippians 4:4

And the only way to achieve such a state of mind comes from God.

Even when we face challenges, we should never let our struggles diminish our spirit. There is always something to be grateful for and happy about.

“With joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation.”

–Isaiah 12:3

We should never lose sight of the fact that somewhere in the world, someone is facing greater challenges than ours and suffering worse than we are. We have a lot to be thankful and grateful for and that should inspire happiness.

We should always rejoice in our gift of life and the promise of eternal life from God and redemption through our Savior Jesus Christ.

In his Sermon on the Mount, Jesus delivered the so-called “Beatitudes” which spoke to finding lasting contentment through faith in God. Jesus addressed all the things that trouble us here on Earth, promising a lasting and unshakable happiness in heaven.