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Why Am I Not Happy?

Summit Life / J.D. Greear
The Truth Network Radio
August 29, 2023 9:00 am

Why Am I Not Happy?

Summit Life / J.D. Greear

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August 29, 2023 9:00 am

In a brand new study in the book of Psalms called Question Everything, we’re discovering how an ancient book of music lyrics can help us answer some of the most pressing questions on our hearts, like, “Why am I not happy?” and “Does my life have a purpose?”

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Today on Summit Life, a new study from Pastor J.D. Greer. Psalm chapter 1 explains that happiness is neither inevitable nor unattainable.

It is possible. For those of you that are new to church entirely and you're like, what are psalms? Psalm is the Hebrew word for song. So the book of Psalms is like the 150 greatest hits of ancient Israel. Welcome back to Summit Life with Pastor J.D.

Greer. I'm your host, Molly Vidovitch. Today we're kicking off a new teaching series in the book of Psalms called Question Everything. We're discovering how an ancient book of music lyrics can help us answer some of the most pressing questions on our hearts, questions that people have been asking from the beginning of time.

And you might be surprised by the answers. It's the first of several teaching series from the book of Psalms that we'll cover for the next few weeks. So go ahead and put a bookmark in the longest book of the Bible and let's turn to Psalm 1 now as Pastor J.D.

looks at the first question at hand. Why am I not happy? We are beginning a new series this weekend on the book of Psalms.

We're going to see how an Old Testament book that's written nearly 3,000 years ago deals with some of the most poignant existential questions that we ask today. The first question that we're going to get to is the question, why am I not happy? Why am I not happy? A lot of us I think are thinking about the, shall we say, the enigma of happiness with the tragic death of Robin Williams, a guy who spent most of his life trying to make others happy but was apparently so unhappy in his own life that he chose to end it.

And I realize that there are some pretty severe neurological, medical issues that were contributing to his depression and I'm not trying to brush over those. But it's a very sad situation and made a lot of people ask the question, what does it mean to be happy? Can you be happy?

And if so, how? So let me just ask you straight up, directly this weekend, are you happy? Right now in this situation and where you are in life, are you happy?

I talked to one Christian girl who was a very committed Christian. I'm very active in the church who said, I'm not sure I've ever totally been happy. Maybe you're the kind of person that goes up and down. You're happy one moment, one season, then you're unhappy the next. All right, let me ask the question a different way.

If life did not change at all for you from this moment forward, and by that I mean your situation didn't improve, your marital status didn't change, your career did not progress, your body doesn't feel any substantially better than it does now, can you be happy with life? Google autocomplete verifies that this is a very pressing question. Whenever I want to know what everybody really thinks, I just go type in a sentence on Google and see how it finishes it so I know what the whole world is wanting to know. Here's how Google autocomplete completed the how can I be happy is the very first one.

How can I be sure is second? How can I be saved? How can I become a ball of lyrics?

That was number four on my computer. And then how can I be pretty? Full disclosure, I was actually looking up how can I be pretty when I discovered that. But nonetheless, you see how can I be happy is a very important question that people want to know. The entire book of Psalms opens with the word happy. In fact, if you haven't done so already, take out, if you have a Bible, open it up to the book of Psalms. Psalms 1, 1.

Blessed is the man. Blessed in the Hebrew language is the word ashrei, which literally means happy. That's what Psalm 1 is about. And scholars say that because this Psalm is the opening to the whole book of Psalms, they're putting it there because it captures one of the dominant themes of the book of Psalms. 26 times in the book of Psalms, the writers are going to deal with the question of can we be happy, truly happy?

And if so, how? Now, I know that at this point, a bunch of y'all kind of roll your eyes internally and say, uh, the pastor's asking us, how can we be happy? I wonder if he's going to say Jesus, you know? You're like, that's just too easy, man. It reminds me of the first grader who, you know, is in Sunday school and his teacher says, um, what's gray, has four paws and a bushy tail. And the first grader is like, it sounds like a squirrel, but we're in Sunday school, so the answer has to be Jesus. Uh, and you're like, I know this is what you're going to say. I understand you think I'm going to say that, but, um, this Psalm is a lot more complex than that, and it's not nearly that simplistic.

Um, so at least hear this out. I've heard it said that when you're young, you think happiness is inevitable. You're going to find that special person. You're going to get into that fulfilling job. If you'll be patient, happiness is just around the corner.

It's coming. Life is going to be good. Happiness is inevitable, but by the time you get older, it's gone from happiness is inevitable to happiness being, you think, unattainable. I've heard it described as the difference between two of Shakespeare's most famous plays, uh, Much Ado About Nothing and Hamlet. Uh, Much Ado About Nothing, uh, if you've read or, you know, seen that one, um, basically at the end of Much Ado About Nothing, um, everybody gets to come home.

Everybody gets to marry who they wanted to marry. Uh, the person they thought was dead was really alive. Uh, the person they thought betrayed them didn't actually betray them, and everyone lives happily ever after. Um, then you got Hamlet. Last scene of Hamlet, everybody dies bitter and disappointed. Um, when you're young and naive, you think life is essentially much ado about nothing. It's headed toward happiness. Um, as you get older, you begin to think that it's much more like Hamlet. Psalm chapter one explains that happiness is neither inevitable nor unattainable.

It is possible, right? Psalm one. Uh, by the way, for those of you that are new to church entirely and you're like, uh, what are psalms? Psalm is the Hebrew word for song. So the book of Psalms is like the 150 greatest hits of ancient Israel.

Uh, and we're going to look at a few of them, four of them over the next few weeks. Uh, so, Psalm one verse one. Happy is the man who walks not in the counsel of the ungodly nor stands in the way of sinners nor sits in the seat of scoffers, but his delight is in the law of the Lord. And on that law, he meditates day and night. He is like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season.

Its leaf does not wither and in all that he does, he prospers. The ungodly are not so. The ungodly are like the chaff that the wind drives away. Therefore, the ungodly will not stand in the judgment nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous for the Lord knows the way of the righteous, but the way of the ungodly will perish. This Psalm contrasts the godly with the ungodly.

Those who walk with God, the Psalmist says, are like trees that are planted near streams of water that have deep roots that bear fruit year after year and prosper in all that they do. The ungodly, by contrast, are like chaff. Chaff was the very fragile shell that went around a wheat seed.

It was very light and substantial. In fact, the way they would separate the wheat from the chaff is they would put it in a basket and they would throw it up and even the slightest breeze would carry away the chaff so that only the wheat seed would fall back down into the basket. The Psalmist uses this metaphor of a tree and chaff to show you why those who know God can be happy in a way that those who do not know God cannot be happy. He identifies two things that people usually look to to make them happy that cannot, in fact, make them happy at all. So if you're taking notes, write this down.

Here's letter A. You won't be happy, he says, when your happiness is based on circumstances. You won't be happy when your happiness is based on circumstances. You see how the Psalmist in verse three seems to assume that your life goes through seasons? You have spring and summer seasons where the environment is favorable. Then you've got winter seasons that threaten to kill you. You will have drought seasons that threaten to starve you. You cannot cut out the drought and winter seasons from life. And if your happiness is dependent on you being in a spring season, happiness will always be elusive to you.

If your happiness is dependent on you getting into and staying in a spring season of marriage, if it depends on you getting into a wonderful summer of your career, if it means getting into a great summer of retirement, then you will always find happiness to be elusive. I've been reading a book by Tim Keller called Walking with God Through Pain and Suffering. And Keller in this book says that the modern approach to happiness is to remove any and all suffering. So avoid pain.

And if you can't avoid it, sedate it. Eliminate disease. Become an activist and try to eliminate, eradicate disease, discomfort, and injustice.

And these are good and worthy goals and often very Christian goals. But Keller says, listen, no amount of money, power, and planning can prevent bereavement, dire illness, relationship betrayal, financial disaster, or a host of other troubles from entering your life. Human life is fatally fragile and subject to forces beyond our power to manage.

We will never succeed as a human race at removing all pain and suffering, not in this age, not in the next stage, not in the 10 ages after that if we have that long. So if your whole strategy for being happy is getting and staying into a summer season, you will fail. And for many of you, that is entirely your strategy for getting happiness. It's simply to get yourself into a season of life where things are good.

And he's saying that will fail because life has seasons. I know that some of you will lose all respect for me here, but to see how our culture deals with happiness, I went and looked up on WikiHow, which is the great repository of the collective wisdom of the human race, how to be happy. Here are the top eight ways WikiHow identifies you should be happy. Number one, peace of counsel, be optimistic. So what if your life is a huge mess with no promise that anything is going to change in the future? Well, just ignore just ignore those facts and just assume that it's going to get better.

Clap along if you feel like that's what you want to do. So what if someone pooped on your front porch? Free fertilizer, right? How many things in life is that going to work for?

How many things in life, it may work for poop on your front porch, but is it going to work for everything? Number two, follow your gut. Oh, sure. That's great advice, right? Your heart is deceitful above all things, Jeremiah says, and desperately wicked, but by all means follow your heart because that will make you happy because everyone who follows their heart becomes happy.

Miley Cyrus, right? Number three, own yourself. Own yourself, meaning don't apologize for who you are because you're awesome. But what if, in fact, you aren't awesome? And what if you have a lot of serious flaws that seriously need addressing? Well, that's a tough question.

So let's just ignore that and move on. Number four, make enough money to meet basic needs. That's great until you can't or you don't because you lost your job.

And by the way, most of the unhappy people that I know personally have their basic needs that are met. Number five, treat your body like it deserves to be happy because, you know, cancer never hits happy people, only hits unhappy people, so that'll work. Number six, stay close to family and friends, unless they're jerks, of course. And what if your family and friends desert you? Well, you should have chosen better family and friends. Number seven, have deep, meaningful conversations, unless you're depressed or sad, because then that can be a real drag.

Number eight, smile. That's right. If all else fails, fake it.

Just fake it. Seriously, is that the best we have? That is the collective wisdom of the human race on how to be happy. Thanks for joining us today on Summit Life with Pastor JD Greer. Before we get back to today's teaching, I wanted to take a moment and let you know about our brand new featured resource. It's an eight-session study through one of the most famous Psalms in all of the Bible, Psalm 23. The teaching series we began today called Question Everything is based in the Psalms, and in a couple of weeks, he'll teach through another series on Psalm 23 itself. The Psalms hold so many questions and answers to life's biggest questions, and Psalm 23 in particular walks us through the hope that can only be found in the Lord. We know this study will grow and shape your walk with God, and it's a great way to study the Psalms yourself as you listen to Summit Life. We'll send you a copy of the study titled Goodness in the Middle with your gift of $35 or more. You can give now by calling 866-335-5220 or by giving online at Now let's get back to today's teaching.

Once again, here's Pastor JD. Our culture's approach to happiness is built on the idea that we get the word happy from. I told you that happy in the English language comes from the root word we get the word happening from. So you are happy when what you want to happen happens. When what you don't want to happen happens, you're not happy. What the Psalmist is talking about is joy, which is different. Joy goes deeper than the circumstances and your happenings because it has a source of joy that is not dependent on your happenings. Let me just ask you, is your happiness dependent on your happenings? You need something deeper. If you're really going to be happy, you need something deeper than your happenings.

You need roots that go deeper into something that can endure both spring and winter seasons. Later in the Psalms, King David would say this, Psalm 4-7, You have put more joy in my heart than they the ungodly have when their grain and wine abounds. In other words, I got more joy in God than people have when their wine and grain overflow. And when I'm in a season where my grain and wine don't abound, I still have God, and he's a better source of joy than when I do have grain and wine. Listen to this, for the Christian seasons of drought can actually deepen your joy, which is totally counterintuitive to people. But seasons of drought can deepen your joy because it's in those seasons that you learn to drive your roots deeper into Christ. And in those seasons where Christ is all that you have, you find indeed that he is all that you need. And so when you go through a season of drought or winter and you drive your roots deep into the gospel, into God, then you find that when your wine and grain come back, your real joy is not in them anyway. And like David, you say, I got more joy in God than I do in grain and wine. So when the grain and wine is here, great. When it's not, great. Because I've got God, he never changes.

Letter B, letter B. He says you won't be happy when you have no anchor point outside of yourself. You're not going to be happy if you have no anchor point outside of yourself. See verses four and five. The happy man, he says, is like a tree with deep roots that anchor him.

This attacks one of our culture's most cherished myths. That myth is the belief that happiness comes from complete freedom. You'll be happy, the myth goes, when you answer to no one. When you're free to make all your own rules, to define your own meaning. When you're like a room without a roof, that's when you're happy.

C.S. Lewis compared this to the fish who decides that he wants to be free by escaping the confines of water. He's swimming along the ocean, is tired of all the tight confines of the ocean. And so he says, I'm sick of this. I'm going to jump out and be a free fish on the land. So he hops out on the shore. Is he free?

C.S. Lewis says he sort of, but is he going to be happy? Not for very long.

Right? Because he's a fish that's designed for water, so he is freest and happiest when he's in the environment he was designed for. The fish was designed for water, Lewis said. The human soul is designed for God. Therefore you will be freest and you will be happiest when you are anchored in the thing that God has designed you to be in. A tree without roots is tumbleweed. Tumbleweed in some ways is freer than a tree, but is it happier?

I would suggest not. Look at how the psalmist unpacks this. Verse 4, the ungodly, the ungodly by contrast are not so.

They're like chaff. The wind drives away. When we're not anchored into something outside of ourselves, there comes a point in your life at which you're just gone. You're forgotten. Nothing you did mattered.

You just blow away. Life is a tale told by idiots, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing. I think this is Shakespeare Sunday. This is the third reference to Shakespeare.

Right? But there's no real justice in life. There's no real answer for this yearning in your heart for meaning and eternity. And see, here's what happens. When you begin to think of life that way, an incredible despair starts to encroach over your heart. You say, no, no, no. I'm just going to have fun while I'm here. You know, YOLO, then you die.

Right? No. That will work for a while when you're young and naive. But as you begin to get older, you will have to start fighting off this suffocating futility that begins to press in on you.

Don't take my word for that. You're like, well, dude, you're in your 20s. What do you know about that?

You're still a young man. Take the words of Leo Tolstoy. You know who Leo Tolstoy was? He was a Russian novelist. He wrote War and Peace, Anna Karenina. Leo Tolstoy wrote his autobiography.

It was called Confessions. And in there, he talks about something that happened to him. He said it was completely surprising.

It happened in his mid to late 50s. He said, I was in a situation in life where everything was like it should be. He said, my books were selling like crazy.

I'd never have to write another word and I'd be a wealthy man. He said, I had a great marriage. My kids love me. He said, my reputation. He said, the critics love me. He said, I was physically strong. I felt good. I was an iron tribe.

I was a rock. He didn't say that, but he said everything was good. He said, with this question in my 50s kept pressing in on my heart, it brought me to the verge of suicide. It demanded an answer without which I can't really live.

Here's the question. Is there any meaning in my life that my inevitable death will not erase? Today or tomorrow, he says, death will come to those that I love and then it will come to me. Soon, not only will I not exist, but no one will exist that remembers anything that I have said or done. So why then go on with the effort? I've always wanted my life to have a meaning, but what's it all for? What's it all leading to?

What difference does it make whether or not I do this thing or that thing or nothing at all? For a time, it was possible for me to live intoxicated with life. That's called being young. But as soon as one is sober, that's called getting older, it is impossible not to see that life in the face of death is a fraud and a stupid fraud at that. How often I've been told, oh, you cannot understand the meaning of life so don't even think about it, just live.

I can no longer do that, nor can anybody who really thinks about anything. If your life has no anchor outside of itself, it's chaff. It has no real permanence.

Every pleasure is fleeting. It's full of sound and fury, a tale told by an idiot signifying nothing. The psalmist goes on, verse 5, the ungodly will not survive the judgment. In other words, not only is life here meaningless, even worse, at the end of a meaningless life, you stand under judgment. You see, the Bible says it is appointed unto man once to die, and after that, the judgment, which means that one day you will stand before the almighty God at his throne and you will give an answer for your life and you will hear one of two words, forgiven or condemned.

What's it going to be like for you in that moment? What is it like if you gained everything that you wanted in life? What if you did manage to keep yourself in a summer season to stand before the throne of God and hear that one-word verdict on your life, condemned? What would it profit, Jesus said, a man, for him to gain the whole world and lose his soul? What would you give in exchange for your soul?

Think about his logic, right? What dream that you obtained on earth, what house, what pleasure, what possession, what relationship are you going to say is worth the trade of your soul for eternity? The psalmist could not have been more clear in laying out two very distinct ways to live, could he? This is a theme that's going to appear over and over in the book of Psalms. There are two ways to live, and you've got to choose one of the two. The man who knows God lives with an abundant, never-ceasing source of joy that endures throughout all the seasons of his life.

And when he dies, he is received into eternal glory. The ungodly live with an increasingly suffocating sense of futility. Every pleasure is fleeting. They have no recourse in pain. They find no deeper meaning in suffering. And when they die, they go into judgment. There are two ways to live.

Which of these two ways will you choose to live? Now, the psalmist does one other thing in this psalm, and I want to take a few minutes to show it to you before we close, because he reveals to you the secret to really being happy. It's not enough to simply be a Christian or try Jesus or go to church or let go and let God or whatever you want to say. No, he gives you the secret. It's in verse one.

Watch this. Blessed is the man who walked not in the counsel of the ungodly. Counsel is how you, it's about how you think, right? Nor stands in the way of sinners. Way of sinners is how you live. Nor sits in the seat of scoffers. In those days, where you sat is where you thought you belonged. The young sat with the young, the rich sat with the rich, the old sat with the old. So in other words, he's saying where you choose to find your identity, where you, how you think, how you live, where you base your identity.

Here's what he's saying. Let your mind, your behaviors, and your identity be shaped by the word of God. It's not enough to come to church. It's not enough to be a Christian.

It's not enough to be religious or even be saved. You have to drive the roots of your soul deep into the gospel so that your thinking, your actions, and your identity are all shaped by the gospel. The gospel must become an anchor for your soul with roots that go so deep that whatever seasons you pass through, whether a winter of loneliness, a drought of depression, a storm of temptation, whatever season, you have an anchor that keeps your soul steadfast.

Write this down. The secret to happiness is driving your roots deep into the gospel. He will hold you fast. You are precious to him, and he will not let you go. A much needed reminder today on Summit Life with Pastor J.D.

Greer. This is the first message in our new teaching series called Question Everything. Pastor J.D., as we're learning in our teaching series right now, we all have questions. But when I have questions, I don't normally think about going to the book of Psalms for answers. You know, Miley, you and I spend a lot of time together on this program. And when we come to a message series that are about something like the Psalms, I just can't help but think about how all of our listeners, I don't know if they know what an incredible worship leader you are, but when we have a worship leader, you are.

But yes, Miley, in answer to your question, this week we are looking at some relevant questions that really bother us. And for those answers, we're diving into an ancient song book, the Psalms, where David basically and the other psalmist just talk about human experience to help us see the goodness of God and find our hope in him. We've created an exclusive Summit Life study to go along with this that'll work through Psalm 23 that you can have.

It's called Goodness in the Middle. One of the most rewarding studies I've done and talk to the church here. We would love for you to reserve a copy. You can do that just by giving a gift to us and starting a partnership with us. You can do all that at We'd love to send you a copy of this all new exclusive study of Psalm 23 called Goodness in the Middle with your gift of $35 or more to this ministry. Give us a call at 866-335-5220. Once again, that's 866-335-5220.

Or you can give online at I'm Molly Vidovitch and we are so glad that you joined us today. For so many people, true happiness seems like an impossible dream.

So what's the solution? Tune in tomorrow as we learn more about the biblical recipe for happiness. That's Wednesday on Summit Life with J.D. Greer. Today's program was produced and sponsored by J.D. Greer Ministries.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-08-29 10:37:36 / 2023-08-29 10:48:30 / 11

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