Does it make you happy is a question people use to both make and justify decisions.
It isn’t a great question though. There are many things I need to do, and things other people need me to do, that don’t make me happy at all.
I have never been all that happy taking out the trash but if I stopped it would cause problems for me and my family. I am not always happy to go to the gym but when I stop, I get larger but not in a good way!
I don’t really like shaving either but everyone says it is better when I do. So using the happy question to make decisions is not very effective.
I came across a great quote the other day about politics and happiness, two things most people would not connect. The author is a mental giant. I feel smarter just reading what he writes even though I don’t understand it all. His name is Lesslie Newbigin. He was a missionary in India for much of his life and wrote about how to connect with people in the US and Europe after serving overseas.
In his book Foolishness to the Greeks (get it here on Amazon) he writes,
“The Enlightenment gave birth to a new conception of politics, namely, that happiness can be provided by a political system and that the goal of politics is happiness.”
This is huge!
Before this time, happiness was found in a life rich in relationships, and for most, a life rooted in God. Newbigin argues, people are now trying to find happiness through the government and the political system.
That sounds crazy…at first. But consider how passionate people have become about their political views and how much personal investment many have in something that will in all likelihood not touch their day to day lives. It starts to make sense only if people really do see their happiness tied to their political outcomes.
No wonder people can become so scathing and harsh with people who have a different political view. It feels like their happiness is being threatened if someone disagrees. They give themselves permission to cancel and exclude those who are on the opposite side.
There is a better way, even if you disagree. Check out this message about how to deal with political disagreements, Choosing a Direction from our series One Nation, Divided Under God.
As a pastor it scares me. The scary version of finding your happiness in a political system
means politics and government have replaced the role of God.
This is dangerous for two reasons. One it is predestined for frustration. Politics can never create or maintain happiness for anyone. It ends up being an ongoing pursuit of an always in motion target. Even if you catch it, you can’t hold it. It will disappear again soon.
Even more drastic, it is idolatry. Anytime anything other than God serves the role of God in a person’s life they are headed for a crash. No person, no possession, no organization, no system can hold up under the expectations of being someone’s God. There is only one who can fill that job requirement. Idolatry separates you from the only one who can bring you joy and peace.
It is tempting to see politics and government as a way to fix things. To get things under control. To make sure life works the way it is suppose to. The power politics promises is enticing. Yet it never seems to actually deliver on what it promises.
Whenever I feel like things are out of control, I can’t help but go back to the same quote. It promises a great deal, but unlike politics it delivers.
For in him [Jesus] all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him. 17 He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. Colossians 1:16-17
It settles me like nothing else. No matter who disagrees with me, no matter who is leading the government, no matter what politics is promising. I can rest knowing Jesus is holding everything together.
It makes me happy.
Does it make you happy?