Posted by Gareth Gilkeson on 10 June 2014

There’s a formula for happiness. Sure, it’s not like it gets printed out and passed around for us to learn, and it’s not as if we ever really get examined on it. But there’s a formula all right. And my guess is that all of us know what it is.

more stuff = more happiness

Look around and it’s easy enough to see the signs. We’re told that the latest shining, blinking, pocket-sized bit of technological wunderkit is ‘essential’, a ‘must have’, an item without which we simply stand zero chance of ever being complete. How, mum, can I ever hope to be happy without those shoes/that consol/this bag/these products/those things?

We all do it –we all buy into the equation, we all line up at the till along with dozens of blankly-staring others –ready to hand over the cash and receive the goods. And, for a little time, they work. But the buzz wears off.  

It always wears off.

You want proof? Go to your room and dig around the back of your drawers and find an item that you’ve not touched for ages but that you once thought was pretty nice. Remember the anticipation before you first got it? How differently do you feel about it now? 

Happiness doesn’t work the way the stores and shareholders would have us believe. And, besides, I’m not so sure that happiness is that great a prize anyway.  

Happiness is not the same thing as joy. Happiness is an emotion; a superficial response to pleasant circumstances. But Joy is something else, something deeper. Joy is a spiritual discipline, and it takes work and practice to learn to notice, experience and nurture it in our lives. 

And that’s why God actually had to command us to celebrate. Our sinful souls are much more inclined towards negativity, bitterness and cynicism. They’re too easily satisfied with the sedative of the temporary happiness that consumerism brings. 

Well the Bible says “Taste and see that the Lord is good”, it is not merely a take-it-or-leave-it piece of advice. It is a command that should drive us back to our Father, back to the place where we rely on His goodness to see us through. And to do that we have to once again open our hearts to wonder and beauty. 

If we’re going to celebrate, we have to let go of some of this baggage and approach God again. 

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