[Note: In the media excitement of the Taylor Swift tours this summer, one notable cultural event is overshadowed — just 11 more Interruptions to #1000!]
We, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another (Romans 12:5, ESV).
Recent studies have shown that striving for happiness often brings loneliness. One article on the PubMed website says . . .
Valuing happiness may have some surprising negative consequences. Specifically because striving for personal gains can damage connections with others.
Romans 12 teaches that we are connected to one another in the body of Christ. Since we are created by God to be social – positive or negative interactions with others are key to our peace and emotional well-being.
Yes, we can be happy, but not by seeking happiness. Instead, Romans 12 says we will have friends when we . . .
Don’t think too highly of ourselves, serve one another, honor one another, contribute to others’ needs, rejoice with those who rejoice and weep with those who weep, live in harmony, do not repay evil for evil, and never take revenge.
These are not behaviors valued, taught, or exhibited today, with the result that people are more miserable than ever. Pursuing self will get you “self” while loving others will allow emotionally healthy interactions.
The insidious nature of loneliness is that the lonelier we are, the more isolated we want to be. What!? Have we ever watched a child storm away to their room? Have we ever said in the middle of frustration, “Go away, I want to be alone”?
As a pastor, I observed that the happiest people keep satisfying relationships while those in misery continue losing friends. As we age, do we gain or lose friends? Just this observation will help us determine our path to happiness.
If we keep or gain friends, we will be happy. If we are increasingly isolated – uh oh!
What can we do? Read Romans 12! Meditate on . . .
Don’t just pretend to love others. Really love them (v. 9, NLT).
When God’s people are in need, be ready to help them. Always be eager to practice hospitality (v. 13, NLT).
Do all that you can to live in peace with everyone (v. 18).
In his book, The Happiness Animal, Will Jelbert explains that we can exercise our emotional “muscles” back into happiness shape. He says . . .
We are animals, trained. How we exercise our muscles determines the strength of our happiness.
Of course, this author does distinguish that we are human animals and not four-legged furry critters like cats! But his point is valid, we can exercise our thoughts, emotions, and actions toward happiness.
We don’t find happiness by seeking happiness directly, as it is a by-product of serving others. We can be determined to be more about others and less about self.
Below are two action steps . . .
- Make sure that you have three best friends. As it says in Ecclesiastes 4:12, “A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.”
- Do something this summer with these friends – individually or together.
I’m being honest here. My trend since retiring as a pastor has been less and less interaction with others — especially now that I write and research hours each day.
I’m following my own advice this summer.