I heard an interesting study quoted this week where sociologists found that our level of happiness is decreasing each year, rather than increasing. We live in a society where we have “more” – more money, more stuff, supposedly increasing levels of freedom and equality compared to past generations – and yet our happiness levels are decreasing.
This has been interesting for me to observe in my colleagues. I do LifePlans and prior to our acquisition many LifePlans listed finances in the “What is Wrong” or often in the “What is Missing” category on our Four Helpful Lists exercise. There was a perception that with more money, a lot of their problems would be alleviated.
With the sale of ConnectWise to a private equity firm, Thoma Bravo, every employee’s stock in the company was automatically cashed out. The company was incredibly generous, and most people came out quite well.
You might expect that now LifePlans look different, that all of a sudden the “What is Right” box is really full and the others are empty because people finally have more money like they have been desiring.
Yet, I haven’t seen much change. Money may have moved to the “What is Right” box, but it has caused other questions and problems. Studies show that there is a point where money does improve our lives. That figure is an annual salary of $75,000. Experts say that beyond that household income, more doesn’t really make people’s lives better. In fact, there is a point where it begins to cause more problems than solve them.
Why is that? Why doesn’t money and “more” provide the relief people desire? Why doesn’t it bring the happiness so many think it will?
I heard a podcast this week discussing this subject. The host said, “Happiness is not the point of life. It is the byproduct of a life well lived.”
He talked about the etymology of the word happy. If you trace the word “happy” back to its origin, you find that it is tied to the idea of “virtue.” A virtuous life was synonymous with a happy life.
Jesus paints a picture for us of a life fully lived in Matthew 5-7. He shows us a picture of a life of flourishing.
He acknowledges so much about what it is to be human. Those verses are called the Sermon on the Mount and are some of His most famous teaching. He assumes in the Sermon on the Mount that we will be anxious, that we will get angry, etc., because these are part of the human experience. Then He goes on to introduce a different way of living.
How do we live a non-anxious lifestyle? We live our way into it by putting on practices that root us in Jesus. Rather than trying really hard not to be anxious, we train ourselves through things like reading the Bible or prayer or scripture memory to live the way Jesus describes.
As our character begins to change and develop, our lives do as well. We find ourselves being less anxious. We get angry less often. We begin to experience what Jesus said He came to give: abundant life, life to the full.
I’m enjoying practicing (albeit very imperfectly) the ways of Jesus this year. I want all that Jesus has to offer me and I am increasingly convinced that it doesn’t come through my trying really hard. Psalm 1 reminds us that to be like a fruitful tree, we must root ourselves deeply. This year that has involved continuing to intentionally train myself to follow Jesus and to keep my eyes fixed on Him.
Do you think that money would solve your problems and make you happy? Will happiness come with a bigger house or fancier car? Or is life that is truly life about more than wealth and comfort?
We all want to live fully alive, and we only get one chance to steward this life well. These are great questions to ask. Where are you seeking happiness? Are you finding it?
By our guest author, Laurie Sorensen, A Farmer’s Daughter