Is happiness sustainable?

(Brittany Bowman) #1

Recently, I listened to Nathan Rittenhouse’s talk, “Is Happiness Sustainable.”

Fairytales end with the line, “And they all lived happily ever after.” Perhaps living happily isn’t the unrealistic part of this line, but rather the “ever after” part. We all have moments of happiness on earth. However, eventually the happiness runs out. Perhaps the unrealistic line we all crave is the “ever after.”

First, he clarifies what it is our souls are longing for…

  • “The sustainability of satisfaction is directly proportional to the sustainability of the thing that satisfies you.”

  • “Oftentimes, we say we are looking for something sustainable, but we’re actually looking for something more in the category of restoration or redemptive.”

  • “[Biblical writers] use language like, ‘God restores my soul,’ which sounds a lot deeper than ‘God makes me happy.’”

Then, he gives steps for finding it…

  • “Stabilized satisfaction remembers and rejoices in the completion of the good things of the past, it embraces the peace of the present, and it grins with hope for the future.”

  • “Salvation is when your true identity is based in your ultimate reality … We believe you are made in the image of God, that the reality of your life is personal, and the goal of your life is to be in proper relationship with that which is ultimate.”

  • “Commitment precedes emotion. That makes the emotion safe, delightful. It’s not saying happiness is based on emotion. It’s based on a commitment, and the emotions flow from that.”

  • “Gratitude is the foundation of joy.”

Ultimately pointing us towards Christ…

  • ‘"Let anyone who is thirsty come to me [Jesus] and drink’ … [Jesus] picks up this language of the soul of a longing for something that satisfies and satiates, and we can’t find something in this world to satisfy that. He points to Himself as that and says, ‘Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, rivers of living waters will flow from within’ … It’s a world of abundance, not of sustainability. It goes beyond."

  • ‘"Come to me all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.’ … ‘Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble of heart, and you will find rest for your souls.’ Maybe the vision of happiness you’re longing for is a vision of happiness that doesn’t have work involved with it. Notice Jesus says I will give you rest for your souls, not rest for your shoulders."

Obviously, there’s a lot to unpack, but sooooo good. :smiley: As clarification, my quotes aren’t entirely in the order Nathan said them. I’d love to hear how you understood the talk differently. This is one of those talks that takes a few listen-throughs. The most common advice I receive as a young professional trying to chart my life direction is, “Do what makes you happy.” :face_with_raised_eyebrow: I tried that, and needless to say it didnt work well when my work wasn’t particularly successful. While scrolling through the RZIM YouTube page, this topic stood out because that advice hasn’t worked well.

  1. What stood out to you from the message, and do you agree with how I summarized it?
  2. What are times you have found happiness in Christ or times when the world’s emptiness caused you to see Christ more deeply? What Scripture stood out to you in those times?
  3. The talk turns to Genesis 2 to touch on how relationships and work can give us satisfaction. What are times in your life of that pointing you to Christ?
  4. Is there a Bible story that stands out to you about a character wrestling with this quest for happiness?
(Carson Weitnauer) #2

Hi @Brittany_Bowman1,

Thank you for this very helpful summary of Rittenhouse’s talk!

I think this thought is one that is interesting to unpack:

The sustainability of satisfaction is directly proportional to the sustainability of the thing that satisfies you.

To take it another step, I think that’s part of why seeking ultimate satisfaction from inferior things is so dehumanizing.

For instance, if I’m trying to get a sense of satisfaction from having a perfectly manicured lawn, then I am looking to something that is lesser than me (nicely cut grass) to fulfill me.

Perhaps I reach higher and seek to gain satisfaction from romantic love. However, in doing so, I have to think of the other person as a means to my own end. But if I am dehumanizing them in some way (whether in an overt or subtle manner), then I will also inevitably be dehumanizing myself.

Perhaps I seek after a higher spiritual experience. But this is reductionistic, seeking to fulfill only one part of who I am at the expense of the rest of my identity.

The only sustainable way to get satisfaction, given my infinite and ongoing need for it, would be to find an inexhaustibly loving source.

That can only come from a person, but a singular person would be lonely, not loving, and certainly not inexhaustible in love.

However, a Triune God could be eternally, endlessly loving.

Further, when I consider how that Triune God of love has expressed his love towards us, I can imagine no greater way of demonstrating love than the cross of Jesus. As Romans 5 says,

When we were utterly helpless, Christ came at just the right time and died for us sinners. Now, most people would not be willing to die for an upright person, though someone might perhaps be willing to die for a person who is especially good. But God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners.

As I reason through the question of satisfaction, I find that it points me in the direction of a Triune God of love.

I’m very curious to hear what others think!

(Chad Berry) #3

I agree with the quote Carson and You refrenced. I was diagnosed with a mental disorder (schizophrenia) after graduating High School. Even while on medication I still hear voices. However this event led me to Christ. I know it doesn’t seem like anything is wrong. I don’t currently have a job. I live at home with my parents etc… I struggle with fears of people outside of my house, (social anxiety) I’m normal just the voices part. Here comes the point You can be happy when You have a relationship with Jesus Christ! It is sustainable! Not because of anything outside in the World but because Jesus is Alive and dwelling in our hearts! HE has promised to never leave us or forsake us. God is involved with us! Phillipians 4:11-13! The promise of eternal life IN HIM!!! Rejoice and be glad Amen!!!

(Nathan Griffin) #4

We have a reasonable faith that leads to Peace of mind. Within reason we can be happy. Within Christ we can always be at Peace.

Serenity Prayer
Reinhold Niebuhr (1892-1971)

God grant me the serenity
to accept the things I cannot change;
courage to change the things I can;
and wisdom to know the difference.

Living one day at a time;
enjoying one moment at a time;
accepting hardships as the pathway to peace;
taking, as He did, this sinful world
as it is, not as I would have it;
trusting that He will make all things right
if I surrender to His Will;
that I may be reasonably happy in this life
and supremely happy with Him
forever in the next.

(Brittany Bowman) #7

@CarsonWeitnauer, I hadn’t thought of it that way. Thanks! Often, I see in my own life a mentality that laying down things I value is a sacrifice. However, when put this way, it’s really just a trade for something much better. I’ve known it deep down, but I haven’t heard it that way. I wonder, too, if this could be a counter-argument to the thought Christians take the fun out of life. It isn’t that lawns aren’t useful, but that there’s something better.

With Christ’s death on the cross, that would be the ultimate commitment, of laying down His life. It reminds me of the thought in the talk,

“Commitment precedes emotion. That makes the emotion safe, delightful.”

When we commit more by sacrificing things in our lives, we are increasing our commitment and therefore can have more satisfaction and joy by knowing we won’t be tempted to turn away from Christ.

@Chad.Berry, thank you for sharing your testimony here. Hearing how He has been faithful in your life is a reminder to all of us. I especially love this thought,

It is sustainable! Not because of anything outside in the World but because Jesus is Alive and dwelling in our hearts!

@nathangriffin81 I love the Serenity Prayer- thanks for sharing it here! I had heard the first stanza but didn’t realize it continued. So beautiful. In the talk, Nathan Rittenhouse clarifies the power of prepositions with “the purpose for life” and “the purpose within life.” While secular author Jonathan Haidt could only provide an explanation the purpose within, we as Christians have purpose within because we have purpose for. I hadn’t made that jump until I pondered the Serenity Prayer this morning. What a beautiful description of how we can live within life because we know our ultimate hope is fellowship with Christ!

(Tabitha Gallman) #8

I am so glad I came across your post just now. I do believe that God points us in directions when we sincerely ask for help. Even though this may sound very insignificant, I have been feeling pretty down lately, but in my prayer this morning I came across this post. When I pulled up the talk by Nathan Rittenhouse I remembered viewing it some weeks back and never finished watching it. I like the following points he makes about Genesis ch 2 (things that humanity has been wrestling with since the beginning)

  1. A desire for us to connect with somebody bigger than ourselves
  2. Caring for the earth
  3. Meaningful Work
  4. Clarity and what it means to be in proper relationship with one another

I haven’t finished watching his talk yet, but now I definitely will because this applies to me being so depressed lately. The Holy Spirit also recently pointed out the fact that King David sinned because he was not where he was supposed to be. He should have been on the battlefield with his army, but chose to stay at home. That is when he was tempted.

The times I get so down mentally and spiritually is when I am the least productive and thinking only about myself. I want so bad to help build community in my world, but constantly think about how others will judge me. I am standing in the way and in disobedience.

This young man has a lot of wisdom he is sharing. Thanks Brittany for sharing this.


(Tabitha Gallman) #9

Thank you for sharing about your diagnosis. It’s so good to have you here at RZIM connect. My mother was diagnosed with schizophrenia after my parents divorced. She had a rough life and I have to say that she was a very strong woman facing many disappointments and stress associated with her illness. I miss her, but I cannot wait to see her living her life in Christ. I know she was saved because she used to talk about the youth event she went to with a friend of hers and they were saved and baptized at the same church. I live with that thought and know she is going to have a new body/mind one day.

God bless you and I wish you all the best. :slight_smile:

(Jennifer Judson) #10

These posts and the key points have brought to mind Rick Warren’s “Purpose Driven Life.” We did the book study years ago with the book first came out, then I picked it up again about a year ago. A tremendous amount of good teaching and wisdom in that book.

(Brittany Bowman) #11

@Jennifer_Judson, that’s a great connection. I haven’t read Purpose Driven Life, but I have heard good things. What stood out to you as a connection?

@tabby68, I can relate to much of what you say.

To touch on the Genesis 2 points you highlighted, I’ve started reading Every Good Endeavor by Tim Keller about the purpose of work. It reminded me of a quote,

“Two things we want so desperately, glory and relationship, can coexist only in God.”

Would you mind expanding a bit on what brought the story of David to mind? The concept of place is fascinating, something I hadn’t considered in regards to this talk.

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(Jennifer Judson) #12

@Brittany_Bowman1 – I think one of the key things that the Purpose Driven Life illustrates so well is that our fulfillment comes from living out our purpose.

Many of the steps for finding sustainabililty given my Nathan Rittenhouse in your summary are within the topics in the book. Below is a list of the opening sentences from each of the 40 days in the book.

These are the opening sentences to each day’s message.

  1. It’s not about you.
  2. You are not an accident.
  3. Everyone’s life is driven by something.
  4. This life is not all there is.
  5. The way you see your life, shapes your life.
  6. Life on earth is a temporary assignment.
  7. It’s all for him.
  8. You were planned for God’s pleasure.
  9. The smile of God is the goal of your life.
  10. The heart of worship is surrender
  11. God wants to be your best friend.
  12. You are as close to God as you choose to be.
  13. God wants all of you.
  14. God is real, no matter how you feel.
  15. You were formed for God’s family.
  16. Life is all about love.
  17. You are called to belong, not just believe.
  18. Life is meant to be shared.
  19. Community requires commitment.
  20. Relationships are always worth restoring.
  21. It is your job to protect the unity of your church.
  22. You were created to become like Christ.
  23. God wants you to grow up.
  24. The truth transforms us.
  25. God has a purpose behind every problem.
  26. Every temptation is an opportunity to do good.
  27. There is always a way out.
  28. There are no shortcuts to maturity.
  29. You were put on earth to make a contribution.
  30. You were shaped to serve God.
  31. Only you can be you.
  32. God deserves your best.
  33. We serve God by serving others.
  34. Service starts in your mind.
  35. God loves to use weak people.
  36. You were made for a mission.
  37. God has given you a life message to share.
  38. The Great Commission is your commission.
  39. Blessed are the balanced; they shall outlast everyone.
  40. Living on purpose is the only way to really live. Everything else is just existing.
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