Happy Birthday! Happy Halloween! Happy Thanksgiving! Happy Hanukkah! Happy Anniversary! Happy Kwanzaa! Such exclamations flow from our good intentioned hearts as we send greetings and good-byes with our well wishes of happiness towards others. As stated in the Declaration of Independence, “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” are the rights that we possess and which have been given to us by our Creator. To pursue happiness in our lives would therefore seem like God-given task that we should try hard to accomplish…after all, God wants us to be happy, right?
This is an interesting question. To answer “no” would lead us to ask the follow-up question, “So, then does God want us to be miserable?” Of course, the answer would be “no.” To answer the question with a “yes” would then give us license to do as we want when we want so that we might be happy. Of course, we would say that there are limits to that. In other words, we would probably agree that removing someone from our lives that make us miserable through murder would go past that line. But really, what are those limits and lines and where are they drawn? Different people would come to different conclusions.
The trap of happiness is this: happiness, to many, is the goal to achieve rather than a result that is achieved. To pursue happiness (as defined by me) can itself be an idol. It is the idol of self-centeredness. “What do I need to be happy?” “What can I do that will meet my need for joy?” These are some questions that are typically asked. Often, for those who believe in God, they justify their actions by saying, “God wants me to be happy,” so they follow through with their action to meet their idol’s need. When this occurs, it is easier to do it over and over again. In our goal to be happy, what we often find is that we don’t receive liberty, but we become slaves of our own idol of happiness.
Though it is true God does not want us to be miserable, I would argue that God does want us to be happy. But the happiness that God wants us to have comes as a result of obedience, gratefulness, and a life lived in relationship with Him, through Christ. When we pursue happiness, we pursue self. When we pursue God, the results of happiness come as a blessing to self (Mt 6:33). Happiness is a gift from God, not a goal to achieve.
This sounds simple, but it is not. Pursuing God may seem like it is a trivial thing to do amidst the life circumstances. You may say, “Yes, it’s a good thing to do. But how is that going to help me be happy in life?” Please remember, happiness is the by-product and not the goal. The goal, instead, is to pursue God. Focus on His love for you. Focus on the cross. A person who seeks to understand God’s love for them, who seeks to understand what Christ did for them on the cross and what He saved them from will grow in love, compassion, gratitude, peace, and happiness, because their joy is found in Christ and not in the circumstances surrounding them.
Friends, seek Him first above all things, and do not put any other thing above Him. The results will be astounding!