We all have goals , plans and dreams for our lives. It’s normal. It’s not a bad thing. If we don’t set goals for where we want to be, chances are we’ll wind up somewhere else. But over and over again, I see people making themselves miserable when those plans don’t work out as expected. I know. I did it myself and struggled with years of angst.
The danger lies in becoming attached to our plans, to whatever it is that WE think will make us happy. We usually don’t even recognize that we’re doing that. Often the things we are praying for are natural and reasonable – a spouse, children, a nice home, financial security etc. But sometimes God says ‘no’ or delays and we become frustrated and may even lose hope. Since we didn’t get that which we believe will make us happy we unconsciously decide to be unhappy.
How many times have you heard someone say,“If x doesn’t happen or if so and so does this then I’m going to be really mad”? Without even realizing it, we’ve made a decision to be unhappy and we lose our peace. That’s not the way to pray! In praying we have to reconcile some seemingly opposing ideas. Make our requests known to God, pray constantly, believe we’ve already received it while at the same time with the stipulation- if it’s according to His will. I don’t know about you, but that confused me for a very long time.
But think of this…do we really know better than God what is going to make us happy? Naturally we all feel that if we won the lottery we’d be much happier and certainly the exhilaration of that moment would be amazing. But only God knows if that will truly make us happy in the long run. Having the mansion and servants to do our bidding certainly seems like bliss- but will it really make us happy? How many times have we heard the stories of people who won the big lottery jackpot, and years later they lost everything? The media is filled with stories of wealthy business people and celebrities ‘who have everything’ but their lives are in ruins.
I think the trouble is in the whole idea of shooting for “happiness”. That goal can trip us up. Being happy in this world sure doesn’t guarantee us eternity in heaven. Think of the Gospel account of the Rich Man and Lazarus, the Poor Beggar. In life, the Rich Man had it all and Lazarus had nothing and had to beg to receive just his basic sustenance. In eternity, Lazarus made it to heaven and the Rich Man wound up in hell. Was it because of his money? Nope. He wound up there because of his hardness of heart that kept him from seeing and responding to the needs of this poor beggar at his door. Imagine the eternity he would have enjoyed if he had responded to that need. Imagine how much more joy he would have experienced in his life on earth if he’d opened his heart and given. That is a joy that is far above the “joy” of just possessing.
The true goal to set if we want to be “happy” is to shoot for holiness. Once attained, true happiness, or more accurately inner joy, is the natural by product. When praying, we need to do so with an absolute trust in God’s love for us. Yes, tell God your heart’s desires, tell Him your struggles, ask for what you need, but leave the answers up to Him. Decide to be thankful in this present moment for all that you have in your life including the triumphs and the struggles, the good things and the challenges. God doesn’t settle for half measures. He wants you to be truly, authentically and eternally happy. Sometimes we need to let go of our own plans and have the openness of a child to receive whatever blessing God has in store for us right now.
The irony is that when we do that, when we let go and leave it to Him, when we decide to be joyful in this present moment, just as it is, one of two things will happen. We will either no longer yearn for that thing that we’ve been pursuing or that desire will finally be fulfilled in God’s perfect time. We can only imagine being happy if we’re rich, but what if God will make you even happier with modest means? It truly doesn’t matter ‘how’ we’re happy. The challenge is in letting go of our plans, not giving up in despair, but in confident expectation of God’s better answer.
“For I know the plans I have for you says the Lord; plans to give you hope and a future….” Jeremiah 29:11
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