Off-Topic Thursday: Happiness and Obedience
I keep hearing people talk about doing finding work that we love and pursuing our calling so we can be happy. I don’t see anywhere in the Bible we’re called to be happy, though. Joyful in all circumstances. Holy. But not happy.
We are called to live in accordance with the gifts we have been given (see Romans 12). In the context it talks about spiritual gifts, but I see those as one inseparable part of who we are. I believe it is not stretching the context at all to say that our calling/passion/vocation is also being talked about here. In it, Paul says things like, “If [he has the gift of teaching], let him teach. He doesn’t say, “If he has the gift of teaching but finds himself in an administrator role, let him do that instead.” The assumption is that we will have a way to do what we have been gifted to do. This has nothing to do with being happy.
Not using our gifts & talents also is a waste of resources that God has given us, and is poor stewardship. I don’t think God would give me something that He doesn’t want me to use to its fullest and in the most responsible way possible. Again, this has nothing to do with happiness. If I am supposed to spend as much of my time possible using the resources God has given me in the best way possible, that’s going to take up a lot of time. If I also am to not neglect my family and be part of a faith community, those take up a lot of time as well.
If I spend my time using the gifts, talents, etc. God has given me to serve Him and others, with my family, and with my faith community, there’s not a lot of time for work that doesn’t do one or more of those things. Either I neglect one or more of those, or I make my living doing one or more of those. This isn’t about happiness, but about being responsible to God.
A by-product of this may be, and probably will be, happiness. But that is not the goal.
Frankly, I would rather be obedient and miserable than disobedient and happy.
I don’t know that they are always (or often or ever) mutually exclusive. It may not be an either-or, it may be both-and. I know God is good, He is my Father, and He loves me. I know that sometimes that means I have a lesson I need to learn or for some other reason must be in an unpleasant or difficult situation. I won’t like those times, but they will come. It’s part of being His son. But I don’t think a good God who loves me would want me to be miserable if there is a way I can choose not to be, as long as I am still obedient to Him.
I don’t know what this process will end up looking like—and I know it’s still the first step in a longer journey. I have a problem with the idea that being obedient will always mean I’m happy (tell that to Christians being persecuted around the world, those living in extreme poverty in developing nations, or those with a terminal illness and see what they say). But I also have a problem with the idea that our Father wants His children to be unhappy just for the sake of being unhappy.
I’m still figuring this out, and will probably wrestle with it for a long time. All I know right is that the end goal, or even an end goal of this process must not be happiness. That may be a by-product—and probably will be—but that is not my purpose. My purpose is to find my reason for being and to not squander the gifts, talents, and passions God has given me.
If I had to choose between the two, and as difficult as the choices may be at the time, I choose obedient, even if it means being in a job I don’t like, living in a place I don’t want to, or whatever the case may be.
Question: Have you ever had to choose between happiness and obedience—and in retrospect, did it really end up being a choice after all? Talk about it in the comments below, or on our Facebook page.