Poems, Personal Stories, and Observations

Posts tagged ‘happiness’

The Snare of Riches

‘And Jesus said to his disciples, “Truly, I say to you, it will be hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven.”‘ (Luke 19:23)

We are sorely mistaken if we think that riches will bring us happiness. Material goods, to a point, are certainly a blessing. It is good to have nutritious food, clothes to keep you comfortable in any weather, and shelter from that same weather. Beyond that, I’m proposing here that unearned and/or unshared wealth can be a real hindrance to happiness, if it takes the place of our relationship to God.

Certainly a high position in society does not guarantee healthy or moral behavior, not to mention that all your foibles and flaws will be mercilessly criticized by the public. There are some crazy stories, going back some generations, from my own family background, that cause one to ponder.

Here are a few, half heard, half remembered (and thus probably half accurate), from my background: One relative with a high position in the (non-U.S.) government, contracted syphilis and went mad. He was in the military and presumably, while married, contracted the illness from someone other than his wife. Another VERY wealthy relative gambled away 26 houses. Still another, to impress a woman he was wooing, bought out an entire theater performance so that the two could be the only people in the theater. They did get married, but later divorced, partly due to his infidelity. The same man ran for government and promised the voters that he would provide a copious feast if he won. He won.

We have all seen unhappy rich people in the news, with broken marriages and families, and disordered lives.

If you happen to be blessed with wealth, however you obtained it, remember that all your riches, and anything you possess, ultimately comes from God. (Of course, dishonest wealth is not in God’s plan.)

There were several rich men in the Bible who were righteous. Being rich doesn’t have to be evil in itself. For example, Abraham was quite wealthy and a person of great faith. Again, recall the story of Job, who lost all his riches and most of his relatives, but did not curse God. Ultimately, God restored everything to him, and more. There were rich Christians in the New Testament who shared their wealth. The point being, that their wealth was not where they derived their value, but they derived it from Christ.

Mood Disorder?

First, a disclaimer: I am not a psychologist, and have no psychological training except a few college classes and one five-day workshop. However, I have been in and out of counseling/therapy since age 12 or 13 (I’m now 66), sometimes with a break of many years. So, any psychological terms I use will be my understanding of what they mean, as a layperson.

My main diagnosis through all these years has been mild to moderate depression, or dysthymia. If I understand correctly, dysthymia comes under a broader category called “mood disorders”.

There are many opinions about depression, including “Just pull yourself together,” “It’s because of your sins,” “It’s a lack of faith,” “It’s from ‘stinkin’ thinking’ (irrational, untrue, or unrealistic thinking),” and “It’s a chemical imbalance in your brain.” Of course, all of these can be true, or overlapping.

I am often (not always) in a state of low-grade melancholy, for whatever reasons, as noted above. I could even add the excuse of my cultural background, which is Hungarian. My parents grew up there and then emigrated to the United States. From what I have read, melancholy is a common characteristic among Hungarians. Again, this could be for many reasons. One of my theories is that Hungary, for hundreds of years, has been overrun by foreign powers and has been constantly at their mercy (if there was any mercy). At any rate, melancholy does seem to be common among Hungarians, indeed, many eastern Europeans.

But, today I would like to share a surprising recent occurrence for me, perhaps a small miracle. The other day, I was in the typical, mildly low, mood. Sometime around 5:30 p.m., it was like someone turned on a switch. I was happy! I felt loved, and worthwhile, like God, and some people, loved me! It was inexplicable! I repeat, it was literally like a switch was turned on in my mood. No longer the negative thoughts like “Nobody likes me,” “I’m evil (or at best, worthless),” “Things are going to turn out badly,” etc. Lest this sounds frightening to anyone, let me be clear; I sometimes have these thoughts, but I don’t give in to them. They are like attacks that happen periodically. I have found ways to combat them. I am not miserable anymore, as I was in younger days. I have the hope of Jesus Christ, which is what keeps me alive and functioning and purposeful. Speculating on where they come from could be another blog post.

Like any mood change, I cannot explain what happened. I’ve even had the opposite happen. I will be in a mildly low mood and plunge into a more severe depression. Happily, this happens less and less in my life.

What can I learn from this? I believe God is trying to tell me, “Don’t rely on how you FEEL. I am with you despite any moods, feelings, or thoughts. I never leave you. Do not base your worth on how you feel, or how others treat you.” Whether I feel happy, sad, or in between, I mustn’t take that as my major reality. My major reality is that God is present and will not abandon me. THIS IS THE REALITY, not what I FEEL!

Scattered Dreams

Why, in scattered dreams do I
Remember childhood fantasies,
Of growing up, of painful times —
And also happiness and ease.
Who can give the why, wherefore?
Who can know why life is spent
On fruitless searches, till the time
God’s grace on other road does send?
Am I to blame for all those years
In ignorance and darkness spent?
Or must the drama take its course
For story to have happy end?

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