Pictures of smiley, happy people flood our social media feeds daily. With the use of technology, it’s become commonplace to show off what we have, what brings us pleasure, and what we can’t get enough of. All the while, we’re paying close attention to how many likes and comments we receive.
Yet, within the last 20 years, depression, anxiety, and suicide are on the rise, some significantly. How can this be true if we’re smiling all the time? Clearly, what we’re doing that “makes us happy” isn’t really working. In fact, I’d argue it’s toxic.
When sin entered the world, human minds and bodies became at war with God. So, we can’t assume what makes us feel happy is always good for us. Happiness is an emotion regulated by our sinful nature. As Christians, our spirit aligns with God’s Spirit and opens our eyes to what is good for us so we can “put off our old self,” (Ephesians 4:22) the one with the sinful desires. To do so, we must recognize any false nourishment to our mind and body that’s giving us fabricated happiness.
We must instead, feed our spirt by turning our focus to Jesus. He brings eternal joy and fulfillment which worldly things can’t provide.
4 reasons the “do what makes you happy” culture is toxic for Christians:
1. Material things will not make you happy.
Twelve years ago, my husband and I moved into our new, ginormous house. I’d chosen everything from the floor plan to the fixtures and colors in every space. It was our forever home. I remember telling people I was so content, but God quickly showed us what we thought was forever was only temporary. The strain of bills closed in on our marriage. Then, the market crashed, and it changed everything. We were forced to downsize.
And guess what? God worked it out for good. The stress of keeping up with everyone else evaporated. The tension on our marriage lifted as we lived securely within our means. And our relationship with God grew tremendously as we clung to Him. This is my personal experience with realizing material items do little to make us content, but I’ve heard many stories like mine.
Ones where the big house or new car didn’t save the marriage. Ones where the bank account was full, yet they were overcome with depression, their kids wandered, or they found out they had a life-altering illness.
Things don’t make you happy. They only nourish the sin of greed.
Ask yourself if material items take up the place in your life where Jesus should be. Do you long for more of Him or instead for more financial profit, or items to put in your closet? Or a fancier car to drive? Or a bigger house to showcase?
In Luke 12:15, Jesus says, “Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; life does not consist in an abundance of possessions.” If you want a life that means something, one with joy and lasting fulfillment in abundance, possessions will not achieve it.
2. Pleasures and thrills will not make you happy.
The divorce rate is declining in the younger generation. One reason is they are marrying after they’ve started their careers, meaning they’re likely older and more mature when they take on a lifetime commitment.
This is great news, but there are hidden statistics here, and no one wants to talk about them.
A lot of the younger generation is choosing not to get married at all, to simply live with their significant others, live a single lifestyle, and stay overall non-committal. Young people have told me sexual encounters aren’t considered a big deal. They are just a thrill instead of an intimate encounter with your spouse as God designs them to be. Examples of this are on just about every television show.
And I can only speak for what I see around my community, but extra-marital affairs seem to be breaking up couples left and right.
God’s boundaries surrounding sex and relationships are very specific, but they are there for our protection. 1 John 2:16 says, “For everything in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—comes not from the Father but from the world.”
Our flesh and eyes scream for us to take what we can, or give away whatever we want. But, Paul says that with Christ, “You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.” (Ephesians 4:22)
Our new self, the one striving for righteous and holy living by taking marriages and relationships seriously instead of a means for thrills and pleasures, will give us the rich life Jesus promises to His children.
3. Overconsumption will not make you happy.
We love excess. Whether it’s social media, screen time, sweets, wine, shopping, or video games, our culture’s voracity for more and more often tumbles over into a lack of self-control, an addiction we cannot shake, or a devotion to worldly things we should not have.
Anything we worship other than God is an idol, making us an idolater, and God does not like competing for our attention. Though He is a gentleman, which means He’ll never force us to turn His direction.
I often wonder how saddened He is when I scroll through my Facebook feed mindlessly, instead of connecting with Him through prayer. Or when I eat those sweets late at night in secret. I know they have a power over me they shouldn’t, but rather than turning to Jesus, I binge the ice cream.
And recently, I realized when my flesh is weak, like with my sugar addiction, I’m easily tempted in other, more visible, sins as well. I’ve given the devil a foothold with my lack of self-control and gluttony causing a domino effect of bad choices.
In 1 Corinthians 6:12, Paul speaks to the people, “‘I have the right to do anything,’ you say—but not everything is beneficial. ‘I have the right to do anything’—but I will not be mastered by anything.”
Evaluate if anything other than Jesus is conquering you. It could be the devil is using this to steal your closeness and time with Him.
4. Compliments or likes will not make you happy.
According to statista.com, 79 percent of Americans are on some form of social media. That number is staggering. And take a moment to search the effects of social media on young, adolescent minds. They’ll make any parent cringe.
A periscope view of social media says it’s awesome. We’re able to show our true self to the world, find others like us, post pictures of our gorgeous, extraordinary kids, and keep in touch with old friends. And these are great things.
But could it be possible that every time we tap the app, a little bit of poison called ego seeps into our systems? Slowly, this ego-poison infiltrates and damages our minds. Think about it. We see the family picture of our high school buddy and either grow a bigger ego as we evaluate our perfect family against their not-so-perfect one.
Or we could look at the same picture and fall into the comparison trap, believing their family has it all together while ours is barely surviving day-to-day. This bringing our ego crashing down a few notches. Either reaction feeds our ego, whether it’s inflating or deflating it. And both affect us negatively, nourishing our mind and body, not our spirit.
Jesus doesn’t have an ego, so it’s definitely not Him giving us those feelings.
And what about our growing need for affirmation and acknowledgement through those hearts, likes, and comments? More ego affecting if you ask me. Driving us to puff ourselves up more and more in our need to get a self-worth boost from people online, most of who we don’t see in person regularly or even at all.
Are you being poisoned? If I’m honest, I believe I am. I’ve gone back to a post many times to check the number of likes and comments it received. I’ve also felt both envy and arrogance when looking at friends’ posts.
So how do we break free from the toxicity?
I believe it starts with asking what the motivation is every time we hit send. Every time we buy luxury items. Every time we stretch beyond our means and disregard our conscience. Every time we tell ourselves we have no value in the seasons that aren’t so ‘happy.’
Using Paul’s words in Philippians 4:8, let’s check to see if our goals to share stem from “…whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, [and] whatever is admirable”.
If not, let’s reevaluate and strip the devil of his power to inject toxins into our hearts.