I don’t want my kids to be happy. Sounds horrible, I know, but it’s true.
As my stepsons were growing up, I talked to them often about their pursuits in life. I told them one day they would build their own lives and it was extremely important how they built their lives. They would need a strong foundation if they wanted to build their lives well, if they wanted to avoid the struggles and pitfalls many encounter on their journeys.
I always encouraged them to pursue health, not happiness.
The reason is simple. Happiness is a feeling, an elusive and fragile one at that. To pursue happiness as a goal is to spend our lives chasing a feeling. Even if we hold that feeling for a moment, it can evaporate before our eyes and we are left once again in pursuit of something not quite real, certainly not something on which we can depend.
To pursue happiness might also mean that along the way we will be forced to abandon relationships, jobs, residences, even our values and beliefs because as nature would have it, not one of those things can guarantee permanent happiness. People will let us down. Jobs will disappoint. Circumstances will challenge the very depth of our values and beliefs. And if our goal is happiness, then anything and everything in life is expendable toward that end.
Health, to the contrary, is not a feeling. Health is a way of life. God created us as physical, spiritual and emotional beings. If we pursue health in all three of these areas, we will be pouring a strong foundation for life that can not only withstand the stresses of life, but yield tremendous meaning and satisfaction as well.
Scripture tells us over and over again that if we seek God with all our hearts, we will find Him. Time spent seeking Him in solitude and Bible study will ultimately produce spiritual health. If we pursue a lifestyle of healthy diet, exercise, and good habits we will build physical health into our lives. In the same way, if we pursue emotional health in our lives and relationships, we will cultivate strength and stability into our lives.
The great news is the healthiest people I know are also the happiest people I know.
In a recent article, Lindsay Abrams reported new research indicating that individuals with higher levels of self-control show increased levels of short-term happiness and long-term satisfaction in their lives. Self-control is an important aspect of emotional health. It basically means the ability to manage or over-ride one’s impulses. It seems that people who are healthier emotionally, who are better equipped to manage the pressures of life effectively, are also happier people.
Healthier individuals have built their physical, spiritual and emotional muscles to be solid and strong. They have the coping skills to manage the ups and downs of life. Their relationships are much more peaceful and stable because they have not only learned how to keep themselves calm, they have learned the relationship skills necessary to work through disagreements with others successfully.
What are you pursuing today? Health or happiness?
For all of our lives, my prayer is that we would pursue health, that we would run hard after God to grow spiritually, that we would desire to be disciplined physically, and that we would seek to learn and grow emotionally.
That, my friend, will not only bring you the healing and health you desire, it will make you whole. There is no greater happiness than that!
 Lindsay Abrams, “Study: People With a Lot of Self-Control Are Happier,” The Atlantic Magazine, July 1, 2013,http://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2013/07/study-people-with-a-lot-of-self-control-are-happier/277349.