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Why Do We Feel So Bad When We Have It So Good?

A number of years ago, Forbes magazine had a special edition celebrating 75 years as a publication. You would have expected a number of stories of great events in the world of business over the last 75 years. Instead, the front cover had these words:

Why Do We Feel So Bad When We Have It So Good?

The entire publication was a series of essays by philosophers and social scientists analyzing the mood of Americans and why people do not feel good about themselves and life in general, even though they live in such prosperity.

This reminded me a book I had read by the prominent journalist Greg Easterbrook. The title of the book is The Progress Paradox: How Life Gets Better While People Feel Worse.  Easterbrook says:

People are not feeling better today, but worse. Throughout the United States and Europe, the incidence of clinical melancholy has been rising in eerie synchronization with rising prosperity. Adjusting for population growth, unipolar depression, which is simply the condition in which a person always feels blue, is today 10 times as prevalent as it was 50 years ago.”

What becomes quite clear is that modern people are on a search for good feelings. In fact, they equate happiness with feeling good and of course we naturally connect good feelings with pleasure and pleasurable experiences. This explains why people today have elevated the pursuit of pleasure into a philosophy of life.

The problem is that people are discovering that the pursuit of pleasure does not lead to lasting happiness. We over-emphasize the importance of pleasure and in the process fail to live wisely. Over time, we experience a life full of thrills and good feelings, but in the end we experience an emptiness that is accompanied by a host of destructive consequences. So many people are finding the pursuit of happiness to be quite elusive.

I tell men all the time; “You can go to the finest resorts in the world, play on the greatest golf courses, eat at the best restaurants, drink expensive wine, have the greatest sex, but when you wake up the next morning, there is an emptiness. You have to go back and reproduce the thrill over and over again.”

God gave us the gift of pleasure to be enjoyed within certain parameters. It can bring great delight into your life, but can never satisfy or make you happy. It was never meant to.

God never intended happiness to be the object of life. Instead it is a by-product of the person you become and the kind of life you live.

In his landmark book, The History of Happiness, Dr. Darrin McMahon says that there is an approach to happiness that is not as obvious to modern people and is somewhat counterintuitive. It is the path of virtue. McMahon says this is more of an age-old approach of “tying happiness to higher things: to God, virtue, or the right ordering of the soul.” Happiness is considered a reward for living well.

If you study the teaching of Jesus, you never hear Him say “I came to fill your life with fun and good feelings.” In fact, He never seemed to be concerned with how His disciples felt. He always focused on the heart and soul, and how crucial it is to know wisdom and truth. Most significantly He wanted them to focus on their relationship with Him.

The bottom line is that modern people are very focused on good feelings and pleasurable experiences. God is more interested in the type of people we are becoming and the quality of life we are living.

Yesterday a man asked me how he could transform his life. My response was, “You alone can’t, because you are not able to change your heart.” I explained to him that God must transform us, and it begins with a relationship with Him. I told him that the deeper we go in our relationship with God, the greater the transformation we will experience in our lives.


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