Happiness vs. “If Only”

Thinker statueThe minister’s sermon was on the Matthew 10:16 idea of  “wise as serpents, innocent as doves.” His focus was how Satan zeroes in on the one thing we crave…and uses it to distance us from the Lord and bring us down. He told of Eve, who couldn’t be happy with all she had—had to have the fruit from that one tree. And he talked of the temptation of Jesus, when Satan first zeroed in on the #1 thing Jesus would be craving most—food.

The minister said we all have “lists” of what we want. And about #1 on the list, we’re always saying, “If only…” But he said, “Watch people. When they do get that #1 thing, whatever was #2 moves up to become #1, and the ‘If only’ starts all over again. Not happy.”

And so, he said, we have to be as “wise” as the enemy and realize that’s how he works. And we should not say, “I’m happy, but…” He was trying to get us to not even deal with that, not give thought-time to it.

It was interesting to me that he didn’t distinguish between joy and happiness (as most speakers tend to do). And he didn’t cut us any slack. I mean, he didn’t say “Of course, certain things make us happier than others” or “Of course, we have good motives for some of what we want” or anything like that. He just drove home his point. And bottom-lined it with a hard-nosed: “Sharing Jesus with people—THAT’S the thing that will make us happy.”

It was so forceful, it was kind of frightening. And it’s kept coming to mind since then. Because my self-defense thought at the time was, “Well, I don’t do that ‘If only’ thing.” But he’s got me stopping and assessing my thought processes. Truth is, I have done that. And in hindsight, it’s helpful to look back and recall that such times were unproductive and, yes, unhappy.

Instead of doing the “If only” and “Yeah, but,” it would be much better to, instead, “set [our] minds on things above, not on earthly things” (Colossians 3:2).

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