Name Your Happiness Serum

What would you do if you were given a second chance at life?

I mean, you were on your death bed, doctors were shaking their heads, your family was preparing for life without you in it – and then you drew breath, emerged from the coma, beat the odds.

What would you do if you were given a second chance at life?

One of my favourite shows is Grand Designs, probably because of the focus on creativity through architecture, the interplay between the built world and the natural – and Keven McCloud’s expansive vocabulary cannot go unmentioned. It’s positively bespoke.

But last night…
On last night’s episode we watched a family accrue £3 million of debt ($5.93 million AUD). Gah! That just made me so many shades of sad (and a bright spectrum of angry too).

The dude building the place had a near-death experience; he suffered a brain haemorrhage in 2011 and was in a coma for 10 days. He’d been through an extreme trauma and was prompted to “take life by the horns”, as his wife said.

And with break-neck abandon, he built debt like you’ve never seen.

It was a vivid and rather extreme illustration of the way we tend to self-medicate in matters of the soul. Mr Money had been through a bodily trauma, but I wonder if he considered the trauma of his experience on a spiritual level.

I’m in no place to judge. Perhaps he did – I hope he did. Maybe the trauma of sinking into so much debt has given him another opportunity for that!

But isn’t it a larger manifestation of the urge that we each have when things go wrong? The urge to self-medicate with the stuff of immediate happiness.

Confession time: for me, it’s clothes.
I do love to shop. If I’m feeling low, my husband knows that sending me off for a jaunt in the mall and the encouragement to buy something nice is like a shot of adrenaline. A flattering new top or pair of shoes makes me so happy.
For the rest of the day, at least.

What’s your happiness serum?

A glass of wine (or three)? A punishing gym session? A flight to someplace warm and carefree? A manicure, facial or massage? Building a whopping great building that could house an army for a family of four?

The world tells us it’s our God-given right to be happy. Our friends sympathise with our problems and, because it’s downright difficult and awkward to know what to say to someone who’s doing it tough, they medicate indulgence.

“You know what you need? A good massage!”
(As if a masseuse can rub your teenage son’s drug use issues out of your life).

“C’mon – let’s go have a drink, let your hair down!”
(As if mindless swaying to music will stomp out bad memories).

“I brought chocolates to cheer you up!”
(As if the sweetness will cover the souring of your decades-long marriage).

We focus on cheering each other up, indulging the mashup of feelings, instead of living with wisdom, integrity and compassion. The opposite of indulgence is suppression, and I don’t need to tell you that our culture has a dim view of that particular word.

In his book, A Praying Life (I’ve reviewed it HERE), Paul Miller makes the point that pop psychology casts suppression of emotions as one of the worst sins. Praying that we won’t feel angry or jealous or frustrated – that would be unauthentic, denying who we really are.

“Oddly enough, idolising our emotions doesn’t free us to be ourselves but instead results in us being ruled by the ever-changing wind of feelings. We become a thousand selves or, to use Jesus’ words, ‘a reed shaken by the wind’ (Matthew 11:7),” Paul says.

Indulging the whims of our emotions is the quickest way to the shallowest happiness.

Some of us (the finger’s pointed at my own nose, don’t worry) placate the emotions before remembering that we have a God who is bigger. We jog through our list of ways to lift our spirits and when they fail – then we pray.

I’ve been convicted to do this: go to God first.

I KNOW that he’s in control. My whole life is a testament to the fact that He is guiding my paths, that He loves me and wants the best for me. It’s a statement with precedent, not only in my life, but the lives of friends, great Jesus-followers across the world, and the folk who populate the Bible.

Oh my. It’s such a simple thing to have written such a lot of words about, but perhaps you’ll join me in taking the flux of your emotions to God first and just see what He can do with them.


  1. Gail Challis says

    My husband and I watched that same show Claire and the exact same thoughts were echoed in our discussion. Thanks for your thoughts. We enjoy reading them.

  2. Mrs.Honnie Venema says

    so happy Claire i can read you on line now -my L’ton friend Kitty used to send me the paper clippings and was sad they were no longer coming…..
    Love reading your encouraging messages and pray you may continue for a long long time. I moved from Tas. in 2008 to NSW. to live closer to my daughters after my husband passed to Glory in 2007- he was 76 and served the Lord his whole life and has now received his Crown of Glory…God bless you Claire

    • How WONDERFUL! On many accounts!
      So glad you found me here, and praise God for the faithful life of your husband.

      Thank you for your encouragement, and I’m thrilled that you’ve joined me on this Faith Like a Mushroom journey 🙂 Welcome!

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