“I don’t need a man, in order to be happy,” I remember telling my mom one day when I was 21 or so.
At the time, my life was super fulfilling, and my outlook on my circumstances was rosy. I’d gotten a taste of globetrotting with a semester at Oxford; I had a job I loved; I’d found outlets for my passionate creativity, in class and in editing and writing for the school newspaper.
Plus, I mean, I was a senior in college, and this finger didn’t have a ring by that spring, or the one before that, or the one before that… So I had decided to stop waiting for the (pink diamond) ring and just live life.
The plan was great on the outside. Study abroad, graduate, get a job in a publishing company, travel some more for fun – maybe grace a special someone with permission to date me at some point, after I got that penthouse apartment in Chicago and a cute little purse doggie. I didn’t need a man, to be happy; life was going to be too busy for boys!
Some of that did happen like I had planned. I did study abroad again, and graduated with a B.A. I traveled some more for work and fun. I ended up in an apartment in the outskirts of San Diego, instead of a penthouse in Chicago. And I have some fish instead of a little purse doggie. Not too shabby.
But who was I kidding? No amount of travel, no awesomeness of my roommates, no workaholic seasons of life, no level of creative writing bursts, no numbers of freelance editing gigs – none of it has EVER made me forget that I’m single and getting older.
None of it has ever provided a lasting happiness:
- Travel comes to an end, and it’s fraught with stress.
- Roommates get married, move away, and leave the living room looking like a tornado hit it.
- Work, for many years, only got me pink slips and temp jobs.
- Writing hurts my fingers.
Plus, I’m not dumb enough to believe that a boyfriend will always make me happy. Relationships are HARD, wedding planning is HARD, marriage is HARD. I get that.
So if I don’t need a man in order to be happy, but all those other things only provide momentary satisfaction, then I really only have two possible conclusions:
Happiness is found in hard drugs.
Happiness is the wrong thing to be looking for.
I know that option B seems weird to most people. Like, how can life not be about making myself happy? But when I look at the life and work of Jesus, I notice two things:
- Most people – even most leaders of major world religions – agree that Jesus was a great teacher. But in all the teachings of Jesus in the Bible, He never says, “Be ye happy” – not even once.
- In Jesus’ life as a man, He may have known some happiness; but the theme of His earthly life was one of suffering and sacrifice for the people He loved.
Which begs the questions: If Jesus wasn’t living for happiness, what was He living for? If His plan for us isn’t happiness, then what is? Jesus says in John 5:30: “I seek not mine own will, but the will of the Father which hath sent me.”
So what is the will of the Father? The Bible is clear, even from the creation of Adam and Eve, that God wants holiness for us:
- It’s why He gives Adam and Eve instructions to not eat of the fruit of the tree (Genesis 2:26-17).
- It’s why He doesn’t let them stay in the Garden of Eden after they eat the fruit (if He’d wanted them to be happy, He could have left them there) (Genesis 3:23-24).
- It’s why He sends the flood to destroy the people of the world in the time of Noah (if He’d wanted them to be happy, He could have let them keep on satisfying their own physical pleasures with sin) (Genesis 6-8).
- It’s why He sets the Israelites apart from the rest of the world – so that everyone can see the Israelites and know how much God values holiness. He calls the Israelites in Lev. 11:44 to holiness, saying “ye shall be holy; for I am holy.”
- It’s why He sends His Son Jesus hundreds of years later to pay for the sins of the whole world – so humanity can finally, after centuries of trying to be holy on our own, find its holiness somewhere else (I Thess 1:10).
I rather rebel against this idea of being holy, though. I mean, Jesus was holy, and what did He get? Death. Terrible, horrible, painful, mutilating death. Whee, that’s just great! I’d rather be over here at least being KIND of temporarily happy, than sacrificing myself and my preferences for everyone else, thank you.
But Jesus did what He did for a reason – not because he was some sort of masochist. He did it “for the joy that was set before Him” (Hebrews 12:1-2). He knew that after this painful life, He’d be rising from the dead and going to heaven to sit on the throne of everything He’d made (Matthew 25:31), and He would have eternal bliss.
Not only that, but He allows us to join Him in the next life if we trust Him to provide the holiness that God demands (Luke 23:43).
So, because God calls me to holiness, Jesus provides a way for me to have eternal happiness. Mind. Blown.
Now that I think about it, maybe I do need that man after all – just not the tall, dark, and handsome one I had in mind in college.