By Derwin L. Gray
Dreams do come true. On April 25, 1993, the Indianapolis Colts drafted me as the 92nd selection in the NFL Draft.
It was surreal. I did it. I was living the American Dream. The good life and happiness will be mine, I thought.
But just like chasing shadows as a little boy, I really wouldn’t be able to truly catch lasting happiness.
My first year in the NFL was miserable. I didn’t have many friends on the team. I was barely playing.
Some of my teammates didn’t like me because my wife was white. My wife and I were both lonely. We wanted to go back to BYU where I was a beloved star.
My second year was better and, by my third year, I was the Special Teams Captain. I was now a valuable member of the team, and people in the city knew me for my community service.
But my marriage wasn’t good, and the happiness that I wanted continued to elude me.
I was famous, I had the girl, I had the money, yet it made my life worse because I was supposed to be happy, and I wasn’t. If this was the good life, it was an epic letdown.
Don’t get me wrong, there were happy moments; but like you, I was looking for a happiness that was more than just feeling good from time to time.
Like you, I wanted a happiness deeper, better, and more real than that. Like the U2 song, I still hadn’t found what I was looking for.
My Story, Your Story, Our Story
My story of seeking happiness in jobs, relationships, fame, and money is not much different than most people in our culture. In 2008, 4,000 books were written on the topic of happiness, up from only 50 in 2000.
“According to some measures, as a nation we’ve grown sadder and more anxious during the same years that the happiness movement has flourished,” wrote Carlin Flora of Psychology Today.
To highlight the unhappiness in our culture, Yale University now offers a class on the subject that has become the most popular class in the prestigious school’s history.
Almost 25% of Yale’s undergrads take the course, “Psyc 157, Psychology and the Good Life.” Dr. Laurie Santos, who teaches it, writes, “Students want to change, to be happier themselves, and to change the culture here on campus.”
A Yale undergrad who took the course said, “In reality, a lot of us are anxious, stressed, unhappy, numb.”
Even Bristol University in England is offering a twelve-week course in “How to Achieve Happiness.” The course explores topics from “psychology, neuroscience, and will explore ways to achieve true happiness, how to live fulfilling lives.”
As a pastor, I see a lot of unhappy people. With more than 15 years of counseling experience, I have learned that both those who follow Jesus and those who do not are longing and desperately searching for happiness.
In their search, many are learning all the places where it can’t be found: a career, a marriage, in sexual escapades, in having children, in partying, or anything else.
C. S. Lewis, a former atheist who became one of the most beloved Christians of the twentieth century, was on to something when he wrote:
If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world. If none of my earthly pleasures satisfy it, that does not prove that the universe is a fraud. Probably earthly pleasures were never meant to satisfy it, but only to arouse it, to suggest the real thing.
What if the happiness we are hustling after can never be caught?
What if the happiness we are running ourselves into physical, mental, and emotional exhaustion for is inferior to the happiness we’ve been made to experience?
What if created things were never meant to make us happy in the way we desire to experience happiness?
I believe the ancient Jewish people knew the secret to happiness. Marinate on the words to these two songs they would sing to God and to each other as a reminder of where happiness is found:
Happy are the people who know the joyful shout; Lord, they walk in the light from your face. They rejoice in your name all day long, and they are exalted by your righteousness. (Psalm 89:15–16)
You reveal the path of life to me; in your presence is abundant joy; at your right hand are eternal pleasures. (Psalm 16:11)
What if happiness is found by gazing into the face of God in Jesus Christ, and walking in his path of light, life, and righteousness?
DERWIN L. GRAY (DerwinLGray) is the founding and lead pastor of Transformation Church in the Charlotte, North Carolina area. He is a former NFL safety and is the author of Limitless Life, The HD Leader, and his new release from B&H Publishing, The Good Life: What Jesus Teaches About Finding True Happiness, from which this article was excerpted and used with permission.