The Happiness Myth our TV Taught Us

Updated: Feb 5, 2021

The Myth : Unpleasant feelings have to be worked through and resolved until they are gone forever.

This one myth takes up so much attention via words, money, time, and introversion.

For a short time when my mother started to back to work , I was a latch key kid who snacked on tv sitcoms and Spongebob for the hour before my Mom got home from work. In Family Matters, Tool Time, The Wonder Years, Boy Meets World and even Oprah and Jerry Springer, there is a formula that is perfect for a 25 minute slot. Tension, Fall out, Resolution. This trinity of tv gold always brought the acting family a happy resolve by the time to roll the credits.

Laura always understood that beneath Urkel's geekiness, he loved her deeply and that was something to at least be kinder to him for in spite of his nasally antics. Jill loved Tim despite his manly grunting and absentmindedness; an honest talk with his neighbor set his priorities straight and he would offer her seemingly genuine slivers of humility. Cory and Shaun were friends always above their differences, and a good ole friend fight was simply a reminder of how much they needed each-other.

Off camera, families and friends are not like this. Families operate on different scripts. The directors and screen writers are too often Fear, Guilt, Manipulation, Selfishness, and Self-pity.

Sadness is a natural reaction.

Anger is an alarm system for justice.

Neither anger or sadness are permanent residences.

Neither are they “problems” in themselves.

Happiness is not and never has meant the absence of problems. Peace and happiness are choices and lifestyles in spite of problems, and - here’s the truth bomb – some problems may always hurt, but they don’t have to bind us and become our identity.

While that maybe obvious to some people, it took time for me to figure out. And I wonder if maybe it’s not just me.

For a season in my life, I listened to Dr. Laura every day. Countless people called in wanting to know how they could just feel better about a sad situation. So many times I cried as I heard her say, either in her motherly soft tone, or in a motherly annoyed tone (depending on the situation and the caller) ...

sometimes sadness and anger are appropriate.

Those emotions are big confusing ones, so much so that I have even heard well intention-ed Christians wave them away labeled as sin.

Only God is perfect, I have heard, so only God can be angry.

Christians have the Holy Spirit to comfort them, so they should never be sad.

Yet, the Bible says we were made in God’s image. The Bible says God became angry and sorrowful over a handful of things.

Do we expect of level of happiness above God himself, or to be “better than” our God who feels sadness and anger?

There’s this tricky balance in our experience. I firmly believe that there is Satan – whether he is a personified force or an actual individual or both – Satan can manipulate feelings harder than your first lying, cheating flame in high school. He lies based on our reactions to see what rise he can get out of us, or what state he can keep us in. It is true that we must renew our minds into the likeness of and obedience under Christ in order to live peacefully.

It’s just that sometimes peace may look more complex than what we imagined. I know that Jesus knew God’s plan and victory as He prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane, but he still wept unto the anguish of sweating blood -

maybe He even yelled out in disappointment to His sleepy, failing friends who didn't see His blood tear-dropping down (yet).

It’s ok to feel bad sometimes.

It's inappropriate if we didn’t.

Since Jesus didn't try to skip and whistle all the way to cross, we shouldn't make that standard for ourselves either.

We can cry and share and say we hurt. Jesus did.

Ya’ll know I am all about not making a lifestyle of complaining (have you read The Complainer’s Journal?). I’m also for a lifestyle of honesty.

It’s ok if your family dynamic doesn’t resolve itself before the next commercial break. It’s normal and expectedly natural if it doesn’t resolve well for a whole episode or season, so long as you flee from sin in how you relate, respond, respect, and represent Christ as you conduct your home with wisdom and pray over your family. It’s ok if your job isn’t your “dream” as long as you know it’s where you are supposed to be in this season and you are deep in the Word of God so that you can hear His voice therein.

This whole life is like a pregnant labor of joy and pain

that will birth one day in our residence in the New Jerusalem. Then, God will tell us with His audible voice and undeniably present lips exactly what He is planning for us to do the next eon. It is only then, that all tears will be wiped away, and I suspect, that includes His own.

As you go about your day ingesting the memes, slogans, chants, and rhyming tidbits about living positively, remember that it is ok to feel the full spectrum of emotions ask God to guide you by and through them until Jesus renews us all.

Have grace for yourself. Have a good cry. Take a walk when you’re temped to curse the paint off the walls and bring, DON”T DENY, bring those emotions to the Lord and ask Him what to do with them.

It could be you need to change some things about your life. Your body may be telling you something it needs (sleep, calories, movement, hormones). Your heart maybe needs a new life giving approach to the same old wearing problem. Maybe you need to metaphorically break out the whip and flip the tables of a soul sucking abuser – in this case anger is protecting you and is God’s alarm system for you to change your situation (it’s only when a victim becomes self-protectively numb to pain that they are hopeless for a better situation, so move on your feelings while you got them).

Remember that happy isn’t always the appropriate the goal or destination, but peace in the hope, presence, and obedience of Jesus is.

Spend some time today in prayer, Friends. Let yourself feel what you do and ask for wisdom as to what changes these feelings should be signaling, or if they are simply a unique part of the human experience. Then breathe deep and look around – see the beauty that lives alongside the disappointment and live well, abundantly in what blessings you see. There’s always an abundance of hope, peace, joy, and love within the person and presence of Jesus Christ.

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