I have been planning to launch a therapy group for my clients and others who struggle with depression. Over 23 million Americans suffer from depression at any given time, and the World Health Organization has described depression as a growing epidemic. I believe depression is still one of the more misunderstood health problems of our day. These misunderstandings can lead people who suffer from depression to pull away from helpful connections and support which, in turn leads to increased suffering, isolation, and loneliness and tragically keeps them from seeking the help they need. This is so heartbreaking because there is great help for depression and those who are willing to seek help (especially those who take an active role in their treatment) are likely to see significant improvement in their symptoms.
To prepare for this therapy group, I have been doing some additional reading and research on the most effective treatment options for depression. Some of this reading has led me to interesting research on the habits, thoughts, goals, and activities that have been empirically proven to boost our level of happiness. I have thoroughly enjoyed reading through this thought provoking research and I believe much of it will be very helpful in the context of a structured therapy group for depression. Two of the better books I would recommend are “The How of Happiness” by professor and researcher Sonja Lyubomirsky and “Real Happiness” by clinical psychologist Jonah Paquette.
The reading and research I have been doing (especially the empirical research on increasing happiness) led me to the question that is the title of this blog: Is happiness a worthy goal for your life? As a Christian therapist who holds to a biblical worldview, I attempt to view all of life through the lens of God’s truth (as revealed in His Word and in His creation). As I look at life through this lens, I think the short answer to this question is NO. I do not think God’s overall goal for our life is for us to be happy. His overall goal for our life is simply to love and glorify Him with all of our heart, mind, soul, and strength and to share His love with others in ever increasing measure.
Does this mean God is against happiness or He does not want us to be happy? Again, the short answer to this question is NO. God created us with the capacity to enjoy happiness. The bible tells us Jesus came to give us a full and abundant life, (John10:10) God desires us to be joyful always (1 Thessalonians 5:16) and God richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. (1 Timothy 6:17) And while we are certain to experience our share of heartbreak, pain, and loss, God also promises He will see us through the difficulties, help us to grow through the tough times and ultimately bring some level of good to us through the process. Overall, I think God wants us to experience something even deeper and more meaningful than happiness, but happiness is certainly a part of that experience.
As I pondered this question about happiness during my quiet time this morning it led me to this conclusion: “Happiness makes a poor goal for a life, but it is a wonderful God-designed and God-desired byproduct of becoming who God created you to be and living the life God designed you to live.”
COMING NEXT: Watch for part 2 of this blog. See how the current research about happiness lines up with God’s principles for a full and joyful life described in God’s word over two thousand years ago.