Against Unhappiness?

His name was Eric Wilson. Eric was a professor of English at Wake Forest University. He wasn’t known for being a happy person. In fact his friends would say, "Eric, you usually are not happy. You need to do something to get happier." 

And so Eric took their advice and decided to start working on his life to become a happier person. He bought a lot of self-help books on how to be happier, and then he started to do some very specific things, to become a happier person.

He tried to smile more and scowl less. He started adding words to his vocabulary…he used the words "wonderful" and "great" a lot in his conversations. Eric started exercising more regularly to release those endorphins in his neurological system that made him feel good and be happier. He started watching Doris Day movies and Frank Capra movies and other uplifting movies, just to make himself a happier person. Finally, Eric quit trying to be a happy person. Then tried again, and quit again. Finally, he gave up.

Eric Wilson wrote a book about his experience and titled it Against Happiness. In it, he said that always trying to be happy robs us of the experience of being fully human. 

Is God against happiness?  No! 

God’s Book, the Bible, is all about happiness. A survey of the words used in your Bible will show you that God is for happiness. The word "joy" or "joyful" is found 181 times in the Bible. The word "peace" is found 401 times in the Bible. The word "hope" is found 154 times in the Bible. The word "blessed" or "bless" or "blessing" is found 524 times in the Bible. And the word "happy" itself is found 25 times in the Bible. The Bible shows us how to have joy, how to have peace, how to be blessed, and how to have happiness.

Likewise, God’s Word is very real in telling us that we are not going to be happy all the time. Sorrow, intense and lengthy sadness, and even spiritual depression are normal responses to the circumstances that we face in life.

We can put our grief in stages, and sometimes, that can help us to think about the different stages of sorrow and the different stages of grief. But you know something? Your emotions have not read all of those books that the psychologists have written about the stages of grief. And sometimes--in fact, most of the time--our emotions will skip stages and repeat stages and go back and start all over again.

There is no logical sequence to emotional pain. Do you feel like you just keep going around in circles? The psalmist in today’s scripture reading was going around in circles, and when he comes to the end, he's really not in a different place than he was in the beginning. Yet, at the same time, he keeps coming back to God when his life is hurting.

Have a great day, and keep moving forward!

Suggested Bible Reading

Psalm 42-43