Have you ever thought how much happier everyone would be if they didn't expect to be happy? If you change your expections you'd be surprised how much less you would be disappointed.
One of the greatest problems in American society is that assumption that life should be happy. After all, isn't America all about 'Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness'? So we have a nation of people frantically chasing the elusive butterfly of happiness and all they find is misery.
Every summer I take some of our students on a mission trip to El Salvador to work with the poor. The first summer one girl came back and said, "The most amazing thing is that those people are so poor, but they are so happy! I come home here and all my friends live in huge houses with four car garages and their moms are all on Prozac because they're miserable."
Its true. I've seen couples who have fabulous amounts of money and the guy hits a mid life crisis and ruins everything by getting a wig, a sports car and a new trophy wife. I've seen women who have loving, rich husbands, nice kids a fabulous house and everything money can buy. Then she hits a mid life crisis, imagines her husband is having an affair, gets paranoid sues for divorce and takes him to the cleaners. All they get is misery, misery and more misery.
The problem is they thought life was supposed to be happy. They really thought that life was supposed to be a comfort zone. They invested huge amounts of time, money and effort creating and defending a happy little world. They got everything in place and still wound up not only being miserable, but making everyone else in their world miserable too.
Now if they stopped thinking that life was supposed to be happy, then they wouldn't be so disappointed. What if they shifted their perspective totally and thought that life was actually supposed to be an adventure? What if they thought life was meant to be full of sorrow, hardship, struggle, pain and hard work? Then think how happy they would be! When troubles came along they would say, "Hey! this is life! This is what life is supposed to be like! It's time to get to work."
When life was hard, self sacrifice was demanded and suffering hits them like a ton of bricks they would say, "Here's a chance for my soul to be refined. Here's a chance to share in the suffering of Christ. Here's a chance to share in the work of redemption!" They might be miserable, but they already thought life was going to be miserable, so although they're miserable they're not disappointed.
On the other hand, when life is good and things are going well, think how happy, truly happy they will be. Because they expected hardship and suffering and self sacrifice they are grateful and free. They are grateful for every little blessing, every little grace, every little bit of goodness. What they have found is not only happiness, but true joy.
So during this Holy Week, if things are bad for you, if the future looks bleak, if your relationships are sour, if your confidence is low, if you feel rejected and alone and depressed, ask God to help you change your perspective. Stand on your head for a moment and see that life is not really about the pursuit of happiness.
It's about the pursuit of joy.