The Day I Realized Happiness Is Not Enough

My birthday comes at the end of every year. I’m bombarded with happy birthdays and love, just in time to reflect on the previous year and prepare for the next. It makes it hard not to be grateful as I usually spend the remainder of my birthday ringing in the new year with friends and family. Every year is always started off with an outlook of positivity, optimism, hope, and ambition. However, it’s never long into the new year, before that gratitude fades, routine sets in, and old habits return. So forget about changing your habits.

Change your outlook, then your habits will follow.

Most people don’t know this, but 2018 was actually a difficult year for me. The end of 2017, brought on some life changes, pain, and heartache. I embarked on a journey of self reflection, where the darkest parts of myself, my intentions, and the driving force of my actions were revealed. I had been hurt, but with that hurt came growth. Through God’s grace and guidance, 2018 became a year of forgiveness for myself and also for those who had hurt me. As I started 2018 with tears streaming down my face, a loneliness and brokenness like I’ve never known before, and a pain so thick it shifted the atmosphere; God began to dig. He uprooted choices of mine and choices of others and experiences (some of which I had long forgotten) that had scarred and shaped me in ways I wasn’t even aware of. Every ugly, decaying root that was only bearing rotten fruit was pulled out of the depths of my soul. Although, it was just the start of this process, and I would continue to struggle throughout much of 2018, a sense of peace surrounded me in that moment, as God revealed all the bitterness and hurt I needed to let go of.

Those who know me, know I truly love to experience life and am always seeking for another adventure. By the end of 2018, I had resolved to make 2019 a year full of experiences and memories. And I did. I sought out opportunities, worried less, traveled more. Worked hard, but made time for myself and for those I love. Looking back, I can say that I truly enjoyed 2019. I’m blessed with a family that loves and supports me, a husband who goes along with my spontaneity and thirst for life (even if it cost him money), and lifelong friends who are always there even when life is busy (and boy, was it a busy year). I had new adventures, made new friends, reconnected with old friends, and it will be a year I won’t soon forget.

I’ve spent the last few days reflecting on the previous year and previous decade even. Though 2019 was a blast, it came with it’s own set of challenges. I was sincerely happy and loving my life, but yet I always wanted more. The next trip, next show, next adventure. I figured it was the start of a quarter life crisis. I got married young, had been in school for most of my young adult life, and had always made the responsible grown up decision that was best for my future. But I had the job I wanted, the husband I wanted, a house, the dogs (which is obviously a must), and a steady income. By 24, I had accomplished most everything I ever felt like I wanted, and what I thought most people strived for. So why not have a little fun and enjoy life?

And I did. But here’s what that taught me:

1.) Comparison truly is the thief of joy. Around the time my husband and I got married, there were several other young couples we knew who got married as well. Many of them were going on awesome trips, and buying houses. Meanwhile, my husband and I were broke because we were basically living on a single income while I focused on nursing school and served tables on the weekends. I felt like I was “behind” or that I was missing out. I had someone at church come up to me on a Wednesday night and say, “I feel like you need to know that this season you are in, is not going to last forever; but it’s where you need to be. Don’t compare yourself to others.” It was exactly what I needed to hear, and though it was sometimes difficult, God was preparing me for the next season. Behind the photos of the concerts, shows, and trips were a lot of money, planning, and hard work to make those things happen. My season, the season of my marriage, may not be the same season you are in so don’t compare my experiences to yours. You don’t know the years of work, the debt, or the decisions that brought that person to the Instagram photo you see. There’s nothing wrong with enjoying life and seeking out experiences…. but at the same time, don’t compare someone else’s harvest with your planting.

Don’t compare someone else’s harvest with your planting.

2.) God is in the preparation. He uses the difficult seasons to grow you, shape you, and bring you closer to Him. The most difficult challenge of 2019 was striving for my relationship with God. In 2018, it was easy. I had to lean on Him because He was the only thing holding me up. I could feel His presence and He was the guiding light and driving force in my life. In 2019, I was happy. Life was easy. I wasn’t struggling. So my personal relationship with God would sometimes be put on the back burner even if unintentionally. As the year started coming to a close, my 25th birthday and the new year approaching, I was growing restless. I wanted more. The next trip. Next concert. Next show. Next opportunity. Next job. Whatever it was I wanted, I wanted more. More and more. It wasn’t until a friend approached me about becoming more involved in ministry in my free time, that I realized what I had been doing. My friend said, “I know you’re destined for more.” And it finally clicked. I probably sounded emotional, as I choked back tears on the phone. It wasn’t because it was the opportunity I had been looking for. I didn’t really know what I was looking for so no, that’s not it at all. It was because I finally realized that though I was happy my restlessness wasn’t because I needed more adventure and experiences, but because I was putting so much emphasis on enjoying life that I was neglecting the One who brings joy and contentment. The fun I was having, the happiness I was experiencing was a poor counterfeit to the one God brings. Though, 2018 was tough, He was always present, and I still felt joy in those difficult times.

Happiness is defined by circumstances, whereas joy is not.

Authentic, unwavering joy is impossible without a relationship with God. I had so many great experiences and opportunities in 2019, but happiness alone wasn’t enough. I still felt restless because I wasn’t finding my rest in Him.

3.) No matter how ordinary or extraordinary your life may seem, you will never be content with your life if God’s not at the center. By far the biggest lesson of 2019. Contentment and balance is something I struggle with anyway (Enneagram 7, am I right?). I always have to be doing something. I’m not good at remaining still. I like new challenges, always striving for the next thing. I’ve never really cared about having the nicest house or car or material things, but I get bored with tasks that feel meaningless. If I don’t constantly feel like I’m doing something with my life or seeking a new adventure, I feel like I’m missing out. These are not bad qualities in and of themselves. I actually feel like God has used these traits to bring His glory and will into my life many times. I don’t typically over think the big decisions because of these qualities. I just take the first step and trust God to do the rest. If the door opens, great. If it doesn’t, then I take the next step towards something new and assume there’s something better in store. However, when God is not the center of my life, these qualities cause discontentment, and I lack balance.

So, fellow adventure seekers, enneagram 7s, or whoever has these similar struggles, I challenge you to strive for contentment and balance in 2020. Enjoy life. Go on the trip. Go to that show you’ve been talking about. But remember to keep God at the center because He is the only one that can bring true joy. When life is hard, run to Him instead of avoiding your emotions with another experience. The moment I stopped running and faced my issues was when God revealed the most to me, and He brought more growth than I could have imagined.

Sometimes you just need to be still and let God work.

And even when you’re happy, and your life is good, make time for Him. Thank Him for the blessing and opportunities he’s given you.

Don’t let the happiness of this life be a substitute for the eternal glory and joy He is preparing you for.

  • Take time for self reflection even if it’s painful because that brings growth.

Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting. 

Psalm 139:23-24

  • Don’t compare your season to the season of others.

There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven: a time to be born and a time to die, a time to plant and a time to uproot, a time to kill and a time to heal, a time to tear down and a time to build, a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance, a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them, a time to embrace and a time to refrain, a time to search and a time to give up, a time to keep and a time to throw away, a time to tear and a time to mend, a time to be silent and a time to speak, a time to love and a time to hate, a time for war and a time for peace.

Ecclesiastes 3:1-8

  • Find your contentment in Christ.

I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength.

Philippians 4:11-13

  • Enjoy life even in the small things.

This is the day that the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.

Psalm 118:24

Have an awesome, memorable 2020! May it be full of love, joy, contentment, and balance.

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