What’s Wrong With: “Don’t Worry; Be Happy!” Work Advice?

What is the worst advice you have ever been given?

I was relaying a story to a friend recently regarding some advice my father received from a prison chaplain years ago.

Prior to his incarceration, he had met a woman who shared his struggles with alcohol addiction.  This was something my dad wrestled with himself for years and was the root cause for his imprisonment.

Some Surprising Bad Advice

While in prison my dad sobered up and turned to the Lord for help. He was growing by leaps and bounds and the time of his release was near. His girlfriend wanted him to move in with her.  Intellectually, he knew this was not a wise decision, but it conflicted with his emotional attachment.

So he turned to a prison chaplain for help. You know what his advice was?  “God just wants you to be happy, and if that would make you happy, you should do it.”  REALLY?

Unfortunately, that’s all my dad needed to hear. When he was released, he made the foolish choice to accept the chaplain’s advice.  He moved in with the person he thought would make him happy, which then sent his life into a downward spiral from which he never recovered.

A Parable Relating to Our Work

To most, the foolishness of my dad’s choice probably seems evident.  Yet we can easily head down that same road chasing after that same elusive happiness.

For instance, if there are elements about our work or leadership responsibilities that are painful, challenging, and totally draining, we could conclude that such circumstances are keeping us from being fulfilled or happy.

Such discontent, could also lead us to assume that we’re not doing things God’s way, or that we have somehow missed God’s call on our lives and are serving Him in the wrong vocation, or in the wrong way in our vocation.

Holiness Trumps Happiness

That could be true in some cases. However, it could also be true that God might want to use the current challenges you and I face in our work to make us more HOLY instead of HAPPY. Consider the following verse:

“Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is your spiritual act of worship.” (Romans 12:1) NIV

Making Wise and Holy Choices

If we view our entire lives as a sacrifice of praise and worship, offered to God out of thankfulness for whom He is and what He has done, then our work life can be one of the largest platforms for God to perfect His holiness in us. When that kind of surrender takes place then the fleeting pursuit of happiness can be replaced by a deep, abiding joy that transcends our circumstances.

So, in the next week try this…

  1. Schedule a few moments today, during a break or at the end of your day, to make a bullet point list of things that are draining your joy/happiness bucket.
  2. Then present them to God by telling Him exactly what each one is causing you to think or feel. This is a way to process our emotions in a godly way, just as David models for us in many of the Psalms.
  3. Finally, ask God to reveal to you what aspects of His holiness He might want to forge in your life and your leadership through each work challenge you are facing. Offer yourself anew to Him as a sacrifice of praise. Tell God how you want to be a pleasing vessel to Him.  Ask Him for His help to allow Him to perfect His holiness in you through your current work challenges. Then enter into His mysterious joy!