One of my favorite comic strips is Dilbert by Scott Adams. In one scene Dilbert and his boss are discussing Dilbert’s salary. The boss says, “Studies say your happiness depends on how well your life compares to others. So, instead of giving you a raise, I’m going to show you pictures of people who were attacked by bears.” The final scene shows Dilbert loudly and angrily objecting because “This is working!” I keep that on my desk and the sheer ridiculousness causes me to laugh every time I see it. However, that isn’t why it’s on my desk. It’s on my desk right now as a reminder to not let other people or circumstances have control over my happiness.
You see, the reason that cartoon is so funny is because it represents a reality. The reality is perhaps more familiar to you in the reverse form that says, I am unhappy because I want… (fill in the blank). Now I am the first to tell you that happiness should not be our ultimate goal in life, but that doesn’t mean we should never be happy. There are situations in life that simply do not lend themselves to happiness and in those times I am thankful that we have unspeakable joy through Christ. However, most of the time happiness is possible and we miss it because of discontentment. Here are some ideas for avoiding the discontentment that will rob us of our happiness.
- Avoid comparisons. Galatians 6:4 indicates that satisfaction and joy can never come from comparing ourselves to others. Don’t compare your stuff, job, family or life to others. Be content with what God has given you and do not dwell on what He has given others.
- Look at the needs of others. When we do look toward others it should be to serve them and not to envy them. We are more likely to find genuine happiness when we are helping those less fortunate than us.
- Keep your focus on Christ. Hebrews 12:2 says we should each be “fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith.” He is to be our all-consuming focus. The hymn writer Helen Lemmel said it beautifully: “Turn your eyes upon Jesus, look full in His wonderful face, and the things of earth will grow strangely dim in the light of His glory and grace.”
While there is no magic formula to achieve happiness, discontentment is absolutely certain to prevent it. Consider these tips next time you are tempted to look around and become unhappy. Perhaps there is happiness to be found if we simply look in the right direction.