Monday, April 10, 2017

What Do You Want?

"When the hay is removed and new growth appears and the grass 
from the hills is gathered in..." - Proverbs 27:25

**Photography by Melissa Talbot**

In our lives, we pursue many things: money, success, pleasure, and possessions, to name a few but why do we go after these things so relentlessly? Is it in an effort to obtain or find happiness? Can these things truly bring us lasting happiness?

In my own life, there were times of selfish pursuit for things that seemed to be the key to happiness and, for a time, they were. Until the novelty wore off and boredom set in, prompting me to pursue something newer, more exciting than the last.

Years were spent doing this with the most important thing on my mind being me. It was all about me and the things longed for and desired of. After fifteen years of this, I was bankrupt, financially and emotionally, and having to start over as a broken and humbled woman.

It wasn't fun and there certainly wasn't any happiness to be found in everything I had spent so much effort capturing. The emptiness in my bank account didn't even come close to the emptiness that was in my heart and soul.

I never knew God back then and, frankly, I didn't want to. For me, God didn't equate to happiness or satisfaction so there was no point in pursuing Him.

I was doing just fine treading water and continuing the search for the thing that would be the Holy Grail of finds, the luck of the Irish, the pot of gold. There had to be a point in which that one thing would be it.

The one thing that would be the lucky charm giving lasting happiness and deep rooted peace. In all the time I tried, that one thing never came nor did happiness while the only thing still on my mind was me.

Even after the humiliating process of bankruptcy, while the fundamentals of money had to be re-learned, the negative impact of selfishness wasn't grasped until many years later.

Later, when I became a Christian and learned about the backward principle that it wasn't all about me. That there was something and someone far greater to consider. That the blind pursuit of all things selfish were no longer going to cut it.

In fact, those things were destroying me. Even though it was safer to protect and think about myself and accompanying wants, there were no long term, positive results.

The misery was still there along with a distinct dissatisfaction about...everything. It wasn't until I began to apply the upside down principle of selflessness that things began to change. That self-possession and gratification gave way to giving and helping.

The paradigm of, 'it is better to give than to receive', was sinking in and something started to happen, inwardly. It was happiness. It was peace. It was the removal of a great burden.

My perspective of the outside world changed from evil to hopeful. Hope that there was something to be said for this backward principle and that true happiness can be found in even the smallest act of kindness.

I don't know what you are in pursuit of at this moment in your life but is it bringing you peace, satisfaction, and happiness? If it is, the result may be in direct relation to something selfless you are doing. If it isn't, maybe it's time to try something different.

A January 23, 2014 article in the Huffington Post outlined the benefits of being selfless through volunteer work. Part of the article reads:

United Health Group commissioned a national survey of 3,351 adults and found that the overwhelming majority of participants reported feeling mentally and physically healthier after a volunteer experience.
  • 76 percent of people who volunteered in the last twelve months said that volunteering has made them feel healthier
  • 94 percent of people who volunteered in the last twelve months said that volunteering improved their mood
  • 78 percent of them said that volunteering lowered their stress levels
  • 96 percent reported that volunteering enriched their sense of purpose in life
  • 80 percent of them feel like they have control over their health
  • About a quarter of them reported that their volunteer work has helped them manage a chronic illness by keeping them active and taking their minds off of their own problems
  • Volunteers have better personal scores than non-volunteers on nine well-established measures of emotional wellbeing including personal independence, capacity for rich interpersonal relationships and overall satisfaction with life.
  • Volunteering also improved their mood and self-esteem
There is something to be said for putting yourself aside to help someone else. Could it be that taking oneself off our minds could be the key to happiness that so many of us spend time and money trying to find? The article above might be on to something.

For me, putting my own selfish ambitions aside to give a helping hand or speak an encouraging word to someone who is hurting has been the best 'chocolate cake' recipe for happiness I have ever come across. It might just be a worthwhile recipe in your own life.

Encouragement for the week:

Is satisfaction becoming harder to find in your life? Does happiness seem to be getting further out of reach?

May I encourage you to take a step back this week and try something different? Reach out to a person or organization in your community that is in need of help.

Whether it's baking cookies for a neighbor or packing hampers at a food bank, experiment with the principle of selflessness and see what happens. I want to hear from you about what happened when you did that.

If you are a Christian, you know the warmth and joy that comes from serving others. It not only benefits your heart but it touches the heart of someone in need.

If you are not a Christian and you are struggling with trying to find meaning and happiness in your life, look for Jesus and you will find Him and all the happiness and peace you could ever want.

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