University of Chicago researchers calculated a misery index based on the number of serious life problems experienced by the people surveyed over the past year. Problems included death of a loved one, divorce, illness, loss or damage of home, and loss of a job.
According to the study, we’re a lot more miserable now than we were last year.
This seems to go hand-in-hand with a New York Times oped piece about happiness, which points out that the more we pursue happiness, the more it seems to elude us.
Much of modern-day Christianity falls into this happiness trap. It falsely promises people a care-free life, “your best life now.” As if God’s primary concern was making me feel good about myself and my life. As if suffering in the Christian life meant you were somehow less spiritual than your more prosperous and happy neighbors. Wouldn’t that come as a big surprise to the saints and martyrs of the past?
If you were looking at the circumstances of my life in the past year from the outside, you’d probably conclude that I am pretty miserable. We lost my daughter’s boyfriend — a young man we dearly loved — to a tragic and senseless accident. I lost my kidney function, have been in and out of the hospital and have to depend on a machine to stay healthy.
Yeah, it’s been a tough year. Boo hoo for me. But am I more miserable than last year at this time? Shouldn't I be walking around in a cloud of depression? I’m not. Why is that?
As Christians we know our earthly circumstances are just part of the story. These terrible things don’t mean that God loves me less, or forgot about me or is punishing me. Trials and suffering give us the opportunity to trust God, to see His hand at work in our lives to heal, comfort and console — even when the circumstances don’t change or get better. My Savior suffered; do I expect an easier time of it? These trials give us the chance to show the world something different is at work in our lives — something that provides an oasis from the desert of answers the modern world offers.