I had a dream
I got everything I wanted
Not what you’d think
And if I’m bein’ honest
It might’ve been a nightmare
To anyone who might care.
everything i wanted – Billie Eilish
We all want to be happy. You know it in your heart and research confirms it too.
Several years go, Harvard psychology professor Daniel Gilbert wrote a fascinating book called Stumbling on Happiness. His premise is, “…people want to be happy, and all other things they want are meant to be a means to that end.”
In other words, the driving motive behind everything we do–why we work hard, pursue certain relationships, or end them, are lazy, consume too much or too little of a substance (be it food, social media, etc.), is because of our unending quest for joy.
Happiness in the Twilight Zone
Rocky Valentine epitomizes our problem. Rocky stars in an episode of the Twilight Zone (airing in the 60s) and is an unlucky, small-time thief who dies early in the episode. In the afterlife, Rocky wakes up next to a man named Pip who he believes to be his guardian angel. Pip promises to give him whatever he desires. Rocky asks for the best the world has to offer: unlimited luck at the casino, to be desired by beautiful women, for universal acclaim, and more.
At first, the land where Rocky’s dreams come true seems like paradise, but as the months go by, the life that Rocky thought he’d always wanted has lost its magic. In fact, it has grown positively distasteful to him. In a moment of rage, Rocky grabs Pip, his “guardian angel,” and says, “If I gotta stay here another day, I’m gonna go nuts! I don’t belong in heaven, see? I want to go to the other place.”
“Heaven?” his guardian angel replies, “Whatever gave you the idea that you were in heaven? This is the other place!”
Then the haunting voice of the narrator comes in, and says, “A scared, angry little man who never got a break. Now he has everything he’s ever wanted — and he’s going to have to live with it for eternity — in the Twilight Zone.”
The Problem with Getting Everything We Want.
Our problem, as Daniel Gilbert so masterfully pointed out in his book, is that we are terrible at predicting what will make us feel happy. To put it simply, we overestimate how good we will feel when our “dreams come true” as often portrayed at the end of Disney movies. When we finally achieve our wordly dream and it fails to deliver the rush of euphoria we expect it to, we feel duped and disappointed.
As Ravi Zacharias has said, “The loneliest moment in life is when you receive that which you thought was the ultimate, and it lets you down.”
I recently experienced this when I finally got my literary agent. For so many months, I had my sights set on this one goal and held onto the euphoria of hope, the shining future of what I wanted, so close yet so far. Then, when it finally happened, I felt incredible joy, shock, disbelief, and in the midst of all the positive emotions, a nagging sense of–emptiness.
What comes next? Why does it feel like I should still be striving forward? Where is the euphoria I was supposed to feel? Wasn’t all the self-doubt, fear, and low self-esteem supposed to go away, not get worse?
I wrestled with myself for a few days before I finally came to the conclusion about what it was.
The Joy Jesus Gives.
In Psalm 16:11, David writes, “You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.”
God’s presence is complete joy, and complete joy cannot be found in this world because the game is rigged so to speak because God designed it as such. He created us with a capacity for joy so big that it can only be filled with Himself. He gave us other things for our enjoyment and pleasure, but as Augustine prayed, “You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our hearts are restless until they rest in you.”
Our hearts are restless until they rest in you…
Our ultimate good, satisfaction, and fullness of joy can only be found in God himself.
Unlike with Rocky, Jesus promises Heaven’s joy–his joy–to those who place their trust in Him. “These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full” (John 15:11).
We can only find full and complete happiness in Jesus, and only then will we taste the joy of truly having our dreams come true.
What are you basing your happiness on?
Twilight Zone story found in Desiringgod.com