I recently read Nobody by Susan Warner. While it is technically in the romance genre, I really enjoyed it because there was a deeper question and theme that wound itself through the whole book – is it possible to buy happiness? Does happiness come from having money, possessions and a social status?
I’ve thought about this a lot lately. American culture says that it is possible to buy anything – even happiness and peace. We spend so much time and money on worthless things. We try to fill the emptiness in our souls with shopping, with food, with drugs and alcohol and love and all manner of things that are good and right in their place, but were never meant to satisfy the “God shaped hole in our hearts”.
I’ve seen this in my own life. A couple years ago, I was quite unhappy and I thought that I could take that away by eating lots and lots of food. Newsflash: it didn’t work. The more I ate, the more I hated myself and the more miserable I became.
I’m not someone who shops a lot, but there have been a few times when I was unhappy and decided that I would buy a bunch of stuff because it was supposed to make me burst with happiness, right? Well, it seemed to work. For a little while, I was quiet happy. I eagerly awaited the packages that would come in the mail. When they did, I was thrilled and so pleased…for a day. Then I realized that I had the long-awaited things and there was nothing else to look forward to. The things broke or were put aside and I was left with the realization that I had wasted money and was just as miserable as before.
Where does the secret to happiness lie? In money? In a magic potion hidden somewhere in an enchanted forest?
Susan Warner answered the question by showing, through her story, that happiness is not something that can be bought with money. True joy, peace and contentment comes from a lifestyle that is founded on God and a mindset that is fixed on higher things. When we know that this world is only a passing time and that wealth fades away, it is easier to focus on the things that are eternal – God, truth, justice, honor, family, etc.
When we take delight in the simple tasks of our work, or in a deep conversation or by studying the bible, we find so much more contentment than when we find ourselves surrounded by debt caused by all of the things that we thought would satisfy us but didn’t.
It takes time and practice to learn how to find contentment in things that many people see as boring and dry and uninteresting. It won’t happen all at once. But little by little, as we turn our eyes away from the flashy trinkets of the world, we’ll find the value of truth.
Do you believe that happiness can be bought? In what ways have you tried to buy happiness? How did they make you feel? Where do you find true joy?