In the elusive pursuit of happiness, 21st Century man has learned the more you have, the more you want. Once we obtain it, we must continue to get more, do more, or experience more to remain happy. More, it seems, is never enough in a culture drunk on materialism.
It almost seems as if the more possessions one has, the greater the need to possess more. Which only makes one wonder who is the one in control — man or his possessions?
Is happiness something we should pursue? Maybe it depends on how one defines happiness.
In 1995 I was on the wrong end of a lawsuit. As a result of an automobile accident, my wife and I were sued for essentially three times our net worth. Our liability insurance was not sufficient to cover the suit. It was time to take stock, it was time to contemplate the unthinkable — what if we lost it all?
The answer surprised me.
Eighteen months following the initiation of the lawsuit, the plaintiff dropped the case. Yet during those 18 months, those agonizing 18 months, my wife and I had to answer an unnerving question — what would we do if the bank balance said “zero?” It proved to be an epiphany of sorts as it forced us to reevaluate our priorities.
It changed our lives.
We discovered that losing the things the world uses to define success and happiness was not a threat to who we were or what we had. The things of true value, the things of eternal significance, could never be taken from us. I think it was a missionary, Jim Elliott, who was quoted as saying, “It is no sacrifice to lose what you cannot keep to gain what you cannot lose.” With the clarity that comes through adversity, we realized that life’s most important things were not things. And there is a difference between contentment and happiness. Should we lose this lawsuit, we would not lose our faith, marriage, family, or health. These would not be lost.
In hindsight, it was at this time that I began to appreciate the simple things in life and realized, maybe for the first time, that it was in these simple pleasures that contentment, true contentment, could be found.
Happiness can be fleeting, always waiting for the next experience to delight our senses. But no matter how chaotic the world around us might be, true contentment is steadfast.
When the lawsuit was finally dropped, life did not return to normal. Our attitude toward our finances changed. We took financial stewardship more seriously — beyond just a more appropriate liability policy. We recommitted ourselves to be generous givers and faithful stewards.
Our attitude toward a simpler lifestyle changed too. We no longer took for granted the simple pleasures of life. We discovered the best things in life are the simplest. They cost little if anything and provide memories that warm the heart and nourish the soul.
I recently paused to count my joyful blessings and remembered that those blessings make a rather long list — all of which can be described as life’s simple pleasures. I thought I’d share my current list with you. But don’t blink. The list continues to grow with each passing day.
What are some of my simple pleasures?
- Freedom to worship the Lord.
- Being in love and like with my wife.
- Singing a praise song to God in acapella — with a few thousand of my closest brothers and sisters.
- Rocking my five children to sleep (when they were babies) as they lay on my chest — and now my grandchildren too.
- Wrestling with my grandsons or chasing my grandchildren around the room.
- A hot shower after a hard day’s work in the summer heat.
- Getting mail, not the junk kind, but personal letters.
- Standing on top of Pike’s Peak, turning 360 degrees and being lost in the awesome wonder of God and His creation.
- Hearing my favorite songs on the car radio and singing along with the windows rolled down.
- Taking a walk around the block with my wife or family.
- Lying in bed, listening to the rain outside.
- Holding a newborn baby, especially one of mine.
- Chocolate milkshakes from Arby’s.
- Watching the sunrise over the Atlantic and walking along the beach at sunset.
- Laughing for absolutely no reason at all or laughing so hard, my face hurts.
- Making eye contact with my wife and smiling cause we know exactly what the other is thinking.
- Good Friends.
- Waking up and realizing you still have a few hours left to sleep.
- Making new friends or spending time with old ones.
- Hot chocolate with whipped cream on top.
- Making chocolate chip cookies with my grandchildren.
- Watching a good movie cuddled up with my wife.
- Hugging my wife and sharing a long, slow kiss.
- Watching the expression on someone’s face as they open a present from you.
- Reading a book in front of a crackling fire on a cold winter’s day.
- Getting out of bed every morning and thanking God for another Beautiful Day!
- Helping someone in need anonymously.
- Experiencing the awe and wonder at discovering a new insight from the Scriptures.
- Knowing that God loves me and nothing can separate that love from me.
The list could go on and on. Simple joys whose value is priceless. Consider writing down your own summary of life’s simple pleasures.
One of the secrets of finding contentment, I have found, is to savor those simple-pleasure moments. For they serve as a reminder that true contentment cannot be found in things since “things” can never satisfy the longings of the human heart. Even an Arby’s milkshake offers only a temporary satisfaction to my chocolate cravings.
These simple pleasures point to something greater.
May your list be long as you discover the difference between contentment and happiness!
Philippians 4: 11-13: “Not that I speak from need, for I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am. I know how to get along with little, and I also know how to live in prosperity; in any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of being filled and going hungry, both of having abundance and suffering need. I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.” (NASB)