I want you to know that sometimes, I dream.
I dream of a big future, a bright one, a happy one.
As I get older, I’m thinking more and more about where and who I’ll be in a few years.
I’ll be honest, I want to be an editor. Most of you, if you know me, have probably heard me blabber on about that. I want to edit books, and live in an adorable top floor apartment in New York City, drinking coffee and cranking music at all hours of the day, wearing cute clothes, reading lots of books, and hanging with my good friends on the weekends.
While that whole scenario seems highly improbable and dream-like (not the editing part, I’m actually serious about that), there has been an underlying wish there that I’ve had my whole life.
Before I completely reveal that, I’d like to take you back to when I was five years old. My cousin and I were always close, and still are to this day. She and I were at our grandparents’ house, and she asked me, “Amanda, what do you want to be when you grow up?” I thought for a moment, and then replied, “I want to be a singer or an actress.”
I always hated to sing or speak in front of people, because I was painfully shy and self-conscious, but I still had a dream in my heart that one day, I’d find something to really make me happy, and right then it seemed like acting or singing was the way to go.
I love to sing, and I also love to entertain the delusion that I can act. But as I’ve matured, I’ve realized that neither of those is probably the path I’ll wind up taking. I enjoy those things, but I don’t feel a passion for making either of them my life’s calling.
However, I do love words, if you hadn’t already noticed. So for me, it seems like editing would be a good career, at least for the next couple years or so.
And sometimes, when I think of my mental “wish-list” for the future, I put an asterisk besides everything, saying “as long as it makes me happy, which I’m sure it will.”
I think that by having a certain job, a certain sized paycheck, a certain house, certain friends, certain environment, certain material possessions, that then, I’ll be happy.
But you know what?
Chasing happiness is like pursuing a shadow, or trying to catch the wind. You’re always striving, but never savoring what you have.
And while this seems a tad depressing, keep on reading, because I promise that it doesn’t have to be.
I told myself when I was young that when I “became a teenager,” that I’d be happy and free and all that jazz. I told myself that when I finally got a job and paycheck, I’d feel contented that I was somewhat independent. I told myself that when I finally started a blog, I’d feel an overwhelming sense of peace and purpose, and feel like I was important, that I was contributing something to the world, that I was valuable. I told myself that when I started dressing with more style and less Aéropostale graphic tees I’d feel more beautiful. I’ve told myself so many things over the years about what new thing would make me happy.
And I have news for you.
That happiness is so short-lived and shallow, and so easy to move on from as soon as we find “that next thing” to chase after. All those things have happened, and I’m not any happier because of them. Perhaps they’ve added some dimension to my life, but nothing on this earth can fulfill the hole in my heart for something more.
But there is One who can.
If I didn’t have my faith, I don’t know where I’d be. I don’t know who I’d be.
Things don’t make me happy, per se, but I am still a satisfied person, with joy in my life.
“Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me.”
This is one of the most quoted passages in the Bible. The last verse, at least. In this chapter, Paul tells us that in everything, the key to contentment is facing all things with the strength of Christ.
Now strength may not seem to connect with being content or happy, but let’s think about it.
This isn’t the strength that athletes claim before a competition. This isn’t “I can win this thing because I’m mentioning Jesus, and then I’ll get this gorgeous trophy showing how amazing my life is.” It’s facing every aspect of life with the mindset that we are never alone in facing trials. It’s knowing that life won’t always be good, but trusting God that He has a plan in all of it.
That, my friends, is what brings us to true contentment.
We can chase things, but they’re never going to fill us 100%. Or we can choose Jesus, to sustain us, to strengthen us when we succumb to our weaknesses, to hold us together when we fall apart. We can look to His grace when we fail, and mess up, and our lives are in disarray.
And that’s satisfying to me.
I know that I’m doing right now what He wants me to. I know that I’m letting Him lead my life. I know that I’m imperfect, but He has forgiven me.
That is what fulfills me.
That is what brings joy to my heart when I’m depressed.
That is what gives me meaning, a reason to go on, and inspires me to move forward.
I might not ever be rich, or famous, or have really wonderful stuff. And you know what? I’m okay with that.
Because life is about so much more than just being happy.