There are thousands upon thousands of faithful church members who live in a constant state of unhappiness. They’ve done “all the right things” so to speak.
They pay their tithing, are saying their prayers, and reading their scriptures. They’re keeping the commandments and showing up for all of their meetings. They go on missions, serve others, and make sacrifices that have associated “promised blessings.”
They’re taking the sacrament, living right, and aren’t committing any grievous sins. They’re good people, living good lives, and doing good things… and still, they can’t seem to find happiness.
For years, I would use the concept of happiness as the primary reason for inviting someone to come out and go to church. I’d say something like, “If you’ll just come out to church and worship with us, then you’ll find happiness.”
A nice notion, but… well… as I’ve come to learn, completely incorrect.
What I should have said was this: “If you’ll come out to church, you’ll learn about Christ and a marvelous restoration. You’ll learn about eternal families, and you’ll be given plenty of opportunities to serve others. These things will help you build an environment wherein lasting happiness can grow and flourish inside your soul.”
Because so many people join the church in order to “find” happiness, they’re sometimes dejected when they find themselves going to church and yet still unhappy.
Over time, I’ve learned these two significant life lessons:
- Happiness is not something that you can find.
- There is no church on the face of this planet that can make you happy. Not even if that church is true.
You see, there could be two equally righteous people, living the same way, making the same sacrifices, and attending the same church. One could be completely happy and content and the other could be miserable to the core.
The key to being happy cannot be found in a theology or an ideology. The person you marry isn’t going to “make you happy.” The kids you have aren’t going to give you lasting contentment. The career you have, the car you drive, or the house you build… none of it is capable of making you happy. Even serving others, as we so often will associate with true happiness, will not make you happy in and of itself.
We naturally seek for things, for experiences, for relationships, and for anything that we think might bring us that that happiness and peace.
We say that if we make x amount of dollars, then we’re sure to be happy… because then, of course, we’ll be able to serve more people. Then we spend half our lives going after “that amount” that will enable us to focus on others more fully.
As a result, too many of our most able years go toward our fixation on the external checklist of a happy life:
“If I go to church, I’ll find happiness”
“If I can just get married, I’d be happy for sure.”
“If land this job, or succeed at this business, then I’ll be the happiest person alive.”
“If only I just had…”
And the search goes on.
These things we do, the things we buy, the church we attend, the callings we hold, the philanthropies we donate to, the accolades we achieve… all of it can leave us facedown in the dirt if our internal attitude and outlook on those things are not fleshed out.
Remember when Christ gives that often quoted and yet ambiguous line about the Kingdom of God being “within you?”
He didn’t tell us to go wash in the pool of Bethesda or climb Mount Hermon. He didn’t tell us to go and search the world high and low or to complete a predetermined happiness checklist.
He simply told us to look within ourselves.
Remember Paul’s letter to the Corinthians wherein he talks about giving begrudgingly? We’re doing something good that has the potential to contribute to our inward happiness! And yet, our outlook and intent has the ability to make those efforts counterproductive.
The church, the gospel, even Jesus Christ himself cannot make you happy. These are tools, blueprints, and examples that if implemented, followed, and utilized can place you on the path to becoming happy. There are plenty of people that have accepted Christ and are yet unhappy, and then at the same time plenty of people who have accepted Christ and are extremely happy.
Serving on the church farm or working at the bishops storehouse isn’t going to make you happy if you’re grumbling with every scoop of the shovel or every soup can you stock on the shelves. But a shift in outlook could change everything.
Going to the temple isn’t going to do anything for you if you’re only going so that others think you’re righteous. But a shift in intent could be a game changer.
Performances and ordinances are nothing without the correct outlook and intent by the person performing them.
The church and all its goodness cannot make me happy, and the church with all its room for improvement cannot make me unhappy.
It is my outlook and my attitude on all of these things that make the difference.
That is the “agency” part that is so important to God.
In effect, “Here are the tools to create lasting happiness. The rest is up to you. The Kingdom of God is within you. Now build your own mansion of happiness within.”
Your inward intent and the condition of your soul is everything.
You’ve got to actively create that environment from the inside out.
You can’t find happiness. You’ve got to make it.