Don’t Forget About the Little Things
By Frank Liao
This is one of the most frequent topics that people want to explore and discuss about with me, So, people have experienced success along with a ton of the ups and downs, but never end up feeling completely satisfied with their lives, and it bothers them. The main questions that seem to keep coming up is “How can I find happiness that lasts?” or “Am I a happy person?”
We must acknowledge that happiness can mean so many different things, and it is hard to pinpoint it down to something that is universally understood. However, when I ask people what they think will make them happy, there are often a few common answers, such as family, friends, significant others, getting better grades, going shopping and personal success. All these things provide happiness as an emotion, and at certain points these also provide happiness as a state of mind.
I have always associated happiness with personal achievement while growing up. This was especially relevant in school, as I always worked hard for good grades and special awards through my elementary school and high school life. As I have mentioned in previous articles, I was super involved in many areas, where success often followed. I was awarded several top student accolades during my elementary school graduation. My high school life followed a similar trajectory, with me winning a few prestigious awards and scholarship money, while getting my name displayed on the school award wall to boot. With all this success I was happy, but it was not lasting.
A similar story occurred with table tennis. Training hard to improve and win was the goal, and I ended up winning a lot. A lot of my happiness was tied to that. Obviously, losing had the opposite effect on my mood, and it motivated me to work hard to get back to the top. Winning tournaments and gaining high rankings at the provincial, national, and international stage was a big factor in terms of how my mood was during long periods of time. The narrative was the same: I was happy after winning and accomplishing great things, but that never lasted, and I was always left wanting for more.
Over the past couple of years, I have started to really understand that my past misjudgements of where happiness, satisfaction and freedom really came from. I thought that personal achievement in school, table tennis, and other areas would fulfill that void, but that was not the case. In a university context, where it is much more difficult to stand out and achieve success, it became more obvious. This lesson had always been there, from early life Sunday school, to AWANA, to my Catholic school experience, to fellowship, and InterVarsity as well. I did not see because I was too transfixed on other components on my life and the impact that they had on my state of mind. After many good conversations, personal reflection, and book reading, the message was clear: be content.
Contentment is the challenging concept of knowing God’s plan for your life, having a conviction to live into it, and believing that God’s peace and sovereignty is greater than the world’s problems, while also living with joy during all the chaos. This means that in your heart, there is a peace and calm that exists no matter what types of trials and suffering that you are facing. It is not something that can be learned, but an attitude from the heart towards life. Many Christians may end up focusing on serving God for the results, and that our suffering will go away through that. But God does not promise that. We feel our suffering here on Earth so that we can learn what contentment in Christ really means. We can cry out to God, and wrestle with the things that this world throws at us. However, God wants us to understand that being with Him, while experiencing His love and trusting Him through all the pain and suffering, is simply enough. Being thankful for the places that He has put us in and embracing life where we are help us to remember who God is and what He provides for us, which in turn provides peace and joy to our souls.
For me, this is something that I really struggle with. Our human instincts always want us to get more, do more, and get ahead of the curve in everything. There is a reason why shopping is one of the most popular hobbies in the world. People want more and think that it will make them happy, when in reality it s more like a system of diminishing returns. We become less and less joyful with the more we have, and the world turns into a candy store where we can take things that are not the most beneficial for us. This ultimately means being more focused on ourselves and our accomplishments, rather than the gift of God’s providence. Our understanding of God’s character also becomes warped and diminishes His value for our lives, as it could possibly turn God into our personal genie and our prayers into wishes, which is not what He is. Being satisfied with what God offers us and what God has provided us in this very moment is difficult, but it is a lifestyle that we want to experience.
Something that we also must consider is that the drive to achieve our own happiness, through paving our own path under our own strength and ability towards the things we want, may not be incompatible with Christ, but can be sinful. We can refer to Genesis 3 and see that the fall of humankind resulted from a decision for personal gain through temptation. As a result, from this action, there was a break in relationship between us and God, and this is still relevant today. When we intentionally choose personal happiness as our life strategy, we break relationship with those around us and end up causing hurt, injustice, and other detrimental effects. If we continually focus all our time and energy on fulfilling our own wishes and desires, then we will not be choosing into what God has to offer us.
Being content is not easy. There is an aspect of surrendering control over to God and understanding that seeking God’s will and trusting in His promises are at the forefront of that. However, we can take steps in establishing our priorities, and developing a thankful attitude for what we have in our lives. This includes choosing into practices of contentment such as simplicity, silence and solitude and fasting, as these practices help us to have a lifestyle that transforms our hearts. With a global pandemic occurring, along with social issues and unrest, taking these steps can be challenging for us to take. But they are important. Our communities need to support and bring people back to the root of our faith, which is Jesus. He went through pain and suffering, and He experienced a difficult life, but Jesus lived everyday to the fullest and was content as he journeyed with God. Encouraging people to follow Jesus is what we need to strive towards, and our mindsets, along with the way that we go about our days, need to change to reflect that.
Being a Christian does not automatically make you happy and having that point of view is not biblical. However, through all the pain and suffering in life, especially as we enter a new year, there is so much to be grateful and hopeful for. Being content with God’s provision and ultimate plan for us will give us a deeper satisfaction that is long lasting.
“For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.”
SFU 4th Year Business Student