One of my personal pet peeves is when an advertisement tells me I deserve something that their product can supposedly provide for me. How do they know I deserve it? For all they know I’m some puppy punching, kitten kicking psycho who derives a perverse pleasure in making the lives of everyone around me miserable.
What really riles me about playing the “you deserve…” angle is that it reinforces a lie that virtually all of us have bought into to one way or another; the lie that I deserve to be happy. I’ve also heard it expressed as a right, as in “don’t I have a right to be happy?” The pursuit of happiness and/or things or circumstances that contribute to happiness is possibly the most prevalent form of idolatry in our society. And believing this lie has created a lot of miserable people.
I believe a personal illustration is in order.
One of my greatest happiness’s in life is the affectionate touches I get from Wendy. I love it when she rubs my bald head, or glides her hand up my arm as she walks past me or any number of loving things she does. But every now and again the demands and stresses of life become exhausting and she just doesn’t have the energy to even think to do those things.
It hasn’t happened very often in our 28 years of marriage, but when it does my first response is to be patient and caring. This sounds noble, but if I were to be honest at times my motivation is that I hope it will cause her to be attentive and affectionate towards me. If it doesn’t work frustration and the “I deserve’s” begin to creep in. And if the demands of children, and work, and ministry continue to drain my sweet lady that frustration can bloom and consume me, robbing me of sleep and contentment and joy and peace.
I remember one sleepless night in desperation I finally prayed “God, I don’t want to feel this way anymore I need help.” His answer? Develop your longing for Christ till it’s greater than your longing for happiness and the things that make you happy.
Undoubtedly this idolatry of happiness is one of the “things that hinder and sin that so easily entangle” God warns us to cast off in Hebrews 12. And in the next verse directs us to “fix our eyes on Jesus.” When I did that I began to serve Wendy with pure motives, and the joy and peace of Christ ruled my heart again.