I did a Google search of the best quotes from Eeyore, the miserable, melancholic donkey from Winnie the Pooh, and the number one quote was, “The sky has finally fallen. Always knew it would.”
Sometimes I find myself keeping step with Eeyore’s gloomy pessimism. And I wonder what happened to joy.
We live in a culture obsessed with finding happiness. But in our quest for happiness, we have formed a hollow chocolate bunny within our American dream. Leonard Sweet writes, “Overpromising and underdelivering the individual pursuit of happiness has catapulted the US to number one status as the most depressed and medicated nation in the world” (I Am a Follower, 113).
The stats don’t lie. According to one study, “Adult use of antidepressants almost tripled between 1988-1994 and 1999-2000. Ten percent of women 18 and older and 4 percent of men now take antidepressants” (Robert Longley, “Almost Half of Americans Take at Least One Prescription Drug”).
Now, let me be clear. There are times and circumstances for the proper use of medications, and some of us are “lifers” when it comes to our dependence on God-given medical research resulting in those little pills—like my daily dose of meds for high cholesterol, high blood pressure, and blood thinners. And my heart (and wife) are very grateful. Whether the issue is a bad heart, bad genes, or bad blood, every good and perfect gift comes from above (James 1:17), and that includes advances in science and medicine.
With that said, however, the tripling of antidepressants among adults should cause all of us to stop and reflect. What are we looking for in this life? What are we missing? Are we following the pattern of this world in seeking happiness through materialism, consumerism, and individualism (“my way or no way”)?
If so, we will always be found wanting. Happiness is rooted in happenstance, and as goes the events of our days, so goes our fleeting emotion of happiness. Like watching the stock market, when events are good, emotions are good, and when events turn south, we fall back into an Eeyore-like existence.
Jesus, on the other hand, promises us a joy that may be full (John 15:11). Peter tells us we have a “joy that is inexpressible and full of glory” (1 Peter 1:8). “The joy of the Lord is our strength” (Nehemiah 8:10).
Happiness ebbs and flows, but joy is far different. It doesn’t rise and fall according to surface surroundings. In fact, joy can actually flourish amidst pain and suffering. But, as Barbara Holland points out, “Joy requires tending” (Endangered Pleasures, xii).
Orthodox theologian Alexander Schmemann contends, “Of all accusations against Christians, the most terrible one was uttered by Nietzsche when he said that Christians had no joy” (Sacraments and Orthodoxy, 26-27). Christians, of all people, should walk in joy. We enter into the joy of the Lord, and we do so as we share this joy with others. Happiness can be solitary, but joy is shared and viral (Sweet, 113).
I hope you discover joy from the wellspring of life, Jesus Christ. Wake up to that joy. Live in that joy. Rest in that joy. And share that joy with others.
“Joy as a moral quality is a Christian invention” (Dean W. R. Inge, Outspoken Essays, 226).