Most of us would be willing to make sacrifices to be happier. We’d live in smaller homes, have less money, have less stuff, drink less coffee, and so on if it would guarantee that we’d be happier as a result.
It’s a good thing to think about from time to time: What could I sacrifice in order to be happier?
But a more important question is one that we’re less excited to answer: Is there anything that I’d be willing to sacrifice my happiness for?
What is it that’s more important than my personal happiness?
Is there something that can only be achieved by putting myself in a place that could very likely reduce my happiness?
You see, there are things that are much more important than our personal happiness. These things require a significant personal cost but bring a deeper sense of purpose and meaning to the lives of those who give themselves to these things.
There are soldiers who throw themselves on hand grenades in order to save their brothers in arms, sacrificing health and life for a greater cause and for the team they’re a part of.
There are pastors, rabbis, and other religious leaders who give up larger salaries in the business world in order to lead faith communities that often gripe about their leadership.
There are missionaries and service workers who travel the world and take a huge hit to their quality of life in order to serve others.
There are social workers who enter into dangerous areas. There are parents who adopt or foster children that others ignored or passed on. And, yes, there are politicians who do get a bit of power, but who take an incredible amount of grief from those who disagree with them as they try to move communities and countries in good directions.
I could go on and am probably leaving off some of your favorites. (Please note them in the comments.)
What each of these people has is an understanding of how things are and a vision for how they can be. Because of this compelling vision, they are willing to set aside things that might make them happy right now.
I have a friend who finally had to leave mission work in Africa because he had gotten malaria so often that it was affecting his eyesight and the rest of his health. He had been willing to sacrifice his health to follow this compelling vision, until the cost became too high, becoming even life threatening.
When the modern missionary movement began a bit more than 200 years ago, missionaries heading to Africa sent their belongings there ahead of them … packed in coffins. They knew that the mission would cost them their lives and had prepared themselves to not come home.
J.R.R. Tolkien differentiated between adventure stories and quests. The Hobbit is his adventure story, what he called a there-and-back-again story. Bilbo goes on an adventure and returns home. The Lord of the Rings is his quest story, where Frodo goes on a journey that is so important and so devastating that he can never return home. A quest is a one-way trip, because it often ends up in the death of the hero. And if the hero survives, he’s so changed/disfigured by it personally that he no longer fits at home, as in Frodo’s case.
The way the Gospel of Luke tells the story of Jesus is in two parts. In the second half, we come across Jesus setting “his face toward Jerusalem.” He sets out on a quest, heading toward the cross. A one-way road toward a death that will save many, many others.
So, is there anything or anyone that you would be willing to sacrifice your happiness for? I sure hope so! If not, I urge you to find something or someone to sacrifice for. I’m sure you’ll find that the reward that ultimately comes from it will outweigh the cost of your sacrifice.