We all want to be happy. The other night I pursued happiness in my third helping of french toast (yeah, I said night; we were having brinner ;)). The sticky, sweet goodness of french toast covered with syrup was delightful…in that moment. But not long after dinner, I felt awful. I had way over done it, and my blood sugar must have been through the roof. I even had a hard time sleeping that night because of all the sugar my body was still trying to process.
I indulged in something that made me happy — sugar — but it didn’t last. It tasted good, but it left me feeling lethargic and lazy. There are similar temptations in house buying. There is the fancy master bedroom suite that screams at us, “you need this!” There is that extra feature in the kitchen that promises to make life so much easier. There is that extra bathroom that means I’ll never have to walk more than 15 steps to a toilet once I’m inconvenienced by pressure in my lower bowels. There are so many things in a house that can make my life just a little bit more comfortable. And after you look at houses for a while, these nice little features that promise to add a little more to your quality of life become must haves. They become things that you need in order to be happy. They are no longer add-ons, they are essentials.
But the sort of happiness they bring, like my sugar high, seems fleeting. The initial excitement of having this nice feature eventually becomes pedestrian. The nice feature becomes commonplace — it simply becomes the place I sleep, the room in which I eat, or my crapping confinement. The happiness passes, and I’m just left with a mortgage payment.
Instead of sugar-high happiness, Paul says the gospel offers us the opportunity to find contentment in any and every circumstance:
I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength. Phil. 4:11-13
If contentment is available to me in any and all circumstances, then it’s available to me in any and every house. There is nothing that I “must have” in a house to be happy, and there is nothing that I “need” to be in a house in order for it to be livable. Contentment is not conditional on house amenities, so the house buying principle that emerges is: comfort does not equal contentment. As I look at houses, I’m going to remind myself of this so that we’re not swayed off purpose or out of our price range because we feel like we need to have the extra feet in the floor plan or the fancy features in our everyday living spaces.