The Napoleon Dynamite Approach to Happiness

Napoleon Dynamite is a painfully awkward teenager locked in a hopelessly dysfunctional family. His 32-year-old brother chats with babes on the internet all day, his grandmother is hospitalized from a four-wheeler accident, and his uncle is trying to get back to 1982 so he can get into the game and become the football star he’s convinced he was always meant to be.

When Napoleon is trying to figure out how to get a date to the dance, he consults his friend Pedro:

This is new to Pedro. He says, “You draw pretty good.”

Napoleon replies, “Yeah. Probably the best I know.”

“Why don’t you draw her a picture?”

So the intrepid Napoleon carefully drafts a hideous picture of the girl he wants to ask to the dance.

He puts a note on the drawing that reads, “There’s plenty more where this came from if you go to the dance with me.” The girl grimaces when she sees herself.

Napoleon is hopelessly clueless about what it takes to get what he wants.

In a strange way, I see our world through his life. We all want happiness, but we aren’t sure how to get it. We have friends like Pedro encouraging us, but they don’t really know what they’re talking about either. So our world pursues happiness the way Napoleon Dynamite pursues girls.

Very. Badly.

Here’s the problem: we think happiness comes when we get what we want, so we spend our days trying to get what we want.

Jesus said that won’t make you happy. In Matthew 5, he gave eight basic insights on happiness. All eight run counter to everything we ever thought. He said things like “Blessed are the poor in spirit . . . Blessed are those who mourn, blessed are the persecuted. . .”

What? How is mourning and persecution going to make me happy? Let me try to boil it down into a simple truth. We think happiness comes when we get what we want, but Jesus said, “If you want to find happiness you have to give yourself away.”

“For whoever wishes to save his life shall lose it; but whoever loses his life for My sake shall find it.” (Matthew 16:25)

I want to encourage you to make a conscious effort today to give yourself away. See if happiness doesn’t come back as a direct result.

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