“Happy people rarely look for joy.”

This is an excerpt from Larry Crabb’s Shattered Dreams that struck me as I read it this week. I once was the happy person who quietly judged those who weren’t. It took the loss of good things for me to long for better things and see the fallacy of the prosperity gospel of conservative evangelicals that I subtly believed. Crabb says it much better than I could, as I am still in the middle of learning this myself and certainly can’t lecture on it. Here’s the excerpt that stood out to me.

When blessings come, we should of course enjoy them. It’s good when children squeal with delight on Christmas morning; it’s sad when they can’t. Celebrate the good things of life. Enjoy the juicy steak, the unexpected bonus, the beautiful granddaughter.

Happy people, though they’re right to be happy, face a subtle danger. They tend to spiritually gloat, to publicly express gratitude and praise for the good things they enjoy while privately thinking that blessings are their due. They can easily slip into a concern for the less fortunate that carries with it a mood of judgment: If they were more like me, they would be given the blessings I have. We don’t easily recognize that mood within ourselves.

Unhappy folks face their own unique temptation. Publicly they tell the more fortunate how glad they are for all who are so blessed; privately they wish that the happy person’s path would hit a ditch.

Rejoice with those who rejoice and weep with those who weep. No command is more difficult to obey. Beneath the surface, we lament another’s joy (that’s the sin of jealousy) and feel good when a much blessed friend has reason to cry (that’s the sin of smugness a close cousin of jealousy).

Happy people do not love well. Joyful people do. That’s why happiness, the pleasant feelings that pleasant circumstances generate, must be taken away in order to be replaced by joy.

Happy people rarely look for joy. They’re quite content with what they have. The foundation of their life consists of the blessings they enjoy. Although they may genuinely care about those less fortunate and do great things to help, their central concern is to keep what they have. They haven’t been freed to pursue a greater dream. That’s why they cannot love well. In His severe mercy, God takes away the good to create an appetite for the better, and then, eventually, He satisfies the new appetite, liberating them to love.

I haven’t yet finished this book, but I have found what I’ve already read both hard and good.

5 Responses to “Happy people rarely look for joy.”

  1. April October 14, 2010 at 4:14 am #

    Great quote! I am so encouraged by this today. I am having the opposite problem-having a hard time finding either happiness or joy. But, I know I was just too satisfied with being happy. Maybe now I will find real joy in Him.

  2. Kelsea Nicole October 15, 2010 at 6:42 am #

    Thanks so much for posting this. Two years ago I experienced a great personal tragedy that now affects my life on a daily basis and have struggled ever since to know what to believe about God and why He allowed it. I just realized as I was journaling earlier today how much I have perceived life to be a competition, and have labeled myself either a winner or loser depending on the circumstances. I think I've been afraid that God, in allowing the tragedy, also labeled me a loser in life. Thanks for the reminder that happiness on this earth is not God's ultimate intention in the things He does or does not bring into our lives.

  3. Brittany Salmon October 15, 2010 at 7:48 pm #

    Wow, that last paragraph is powerful. Guilty as charged.

  4. Janeen Oesterling October 17, 2010 at 7:52 pm #

    As soon as I become aware of this sin, confess it, and think I've got a handle on it – BAM, there it is again. Definitely a daily battle with the flesh. I really enjoyed the series entitled “The Snare of Compare” that Carolyn Mahaney did on this subject found at http://www.girltalkhome.com/pdf/The%20Snare%20of%20Compare.pdf

  5. Sarah Guild October 28, 2010 at 2:37 am #

    I'm a happy person and a joyful one (I hope), but much different than three years ago. No major observable life change, really. It took no major circumstantial change… the Holy Spirit began revealing to me that the blessings in life and my hope put in those things was causing great fear. Fear of losing the blessings. It doesn't always take observable tragedy in the life of a Christian to allow the work of the Lord to change hearts… my hope is (more than before) built on Jesus, and I don't fear losing the blessings… I just see them as much that I've been given so as to allow me to give and pour into others. And, for that, I stand in awe of the work my Lord continues to do through his Spirit in my life.