I don’t know. Perhaps I am a bit of a kill-joy or something. But, I think that constantly pursuing happiness in this world doesn’t make a lot of sense to me. Depression and sorrow aren’t things people want an abundance of in their lives either. But, the pursuit of worldly happiness is something that I think we would do well to tone down a bit.
When people earn or receive wealth, status, and power, there is a tendency to forget God. There are stories of how musicians and singers began careers in the church with good intentions. But, fame (small and great) went to their heads and they fell into horrible errors. Many a preacher had become too big for his pants and fell into disgrace as well. Yet, many Christians will post “decrees and declarations” for God to shower us with money, success, and happiness not realizing that these things are also traps used by Satan to make us so comfortable and complacent that, in time, we wind up turning away from God instead of toward Him.
Subdeacon Paul Abernathy once shared in a speech that we should ask God to grant us that which is necessary for salvation. Sure, who doesn’t want more money? But, what if having it leads to making poor decisions in spending and saving? In the writings of several holy saints and the Bible we are taught that it is better to have little in peace with the presence of God than to be in abundance with strife and evil. And even if the wealth is made by one’s hard work and is blessed of God, we will not be able to take one cent of it with us to heaven and are counted no better than any other devout Christian who makes do with less. Everyone wants good health and recovery from illness and injury. Of course we serve the God who is able to heal whatever may be wrong with us and we should pray to Him. But, we must be wise to see that if He does heal us, that we do not become complacent in our faith to Him or base our faith solely on what He is able to do for us. After all, even the perfectly healthy has to die to this world. If our happiness is based only on our health in this world, how shall we enter any joy in the world to come? I am struck by the words of St. Paisios;
I wish you many years – but not for them to be too happy, because happiness in the world isn’t really so healthy. When a man is too happy in this world, he forgets God and forgets death.
Let us accept and welcome the wounds that life inflicts on us. For a while, they will hurt. There are lessons for our souls in this pain that cannot be obtained in worldly happiness. When we receive earthly blessings, let’s praise God and keep going on our way. Jesus often sent those who he healed home with the instruction not to say anything about what happened. There is a gift in being sober minded in our times of earthly blessings and happiness. Reach for this gift and we won’t loose site of God in times of victory or defeat.