How happy are you? It’s a question we are often asking ourselves more than someone is asking us. In fact, I would venture to say we ask ourselves this often, daily perhaps, and someone else might ask us this once a year…or maybe decade. This week we begin a 6 part series exploring happiness. Today we start with the fundamentals. What is happiness and is it a virtuous pursuit?
Happiness is often considered as an ideal similar to contentment or satisfaction. It can be limited to circumstantial qualities in our life, relationship, and psyche which is often connected with happenstance. Loosely, happiness is used regarding the desirable condition of a whole person. Contentment is the state of being happy of satisfied so we can see how these terms are used synonymously and interchangeably.
One unique feature about happiness is that it binds the human race as a common experience. We all desire to be happy. Every action, thought, decision, etc. is driven by the motive to find this type of contentment and satisfaction. Is that wrong?
The Desire to Be Happy
The Bible teaches us that there is something wrong with the human heart but not the pursuit to be happy. Sin entered the world through the rebellion of our first parents, Adam and Eve (see Genesis 1-3), and now we all have hearts that have been marred from their intended design. In our lives, the pursuit of happiness can be complex because we are all presented with choices to pursue happiness in moral and immoral ways. But just because we can pursue happiness in immoral ways that ultimately lead to devastating consequences, does not mean that pursuing happiness is bad in and of itself.
At times we can be so aware of all the bad ways people, including ourselves, have pursued happiness immorally, that we determine that wanting to be happy is not a good thing. Instead of happy, those of faith can become known as solemn, morose, boring, and frankly no fun. This assumption carries over to a rejection of Christian values in many ways. For instance, some secular minds reject faith in Christ because to them following Jesus could never be fun. “I mean look at those straight-faced prudes who go to church,” they might say. “They do not seem to have any joy!”
There is a lot of conviction behind assumptions like that for well-meaning Christians. Perhaps we need to be reminded that God desires for us to be happy. In the Bible God teaches us that He is the perfect Father. Can you imagine a Father that would design you with the desire to be happy and forbid you from it? Consider these texts.
Matthew 7:11 (NLT) 11So if you sinful people know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give good gifts to those who ask him.
Luke 11:11–13 (NLT) 11“You fathers—if your children ask for a fish, do you give them a snake instead? 12Or if they ask for an egg, do you give them a scorpion? Of course not! 13So if you sinful people know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him.”
My point for today is simple. Happiness is not immoral if it is pursued in righteousness. God is good and designed us for happiness. Yes, I said it. God wants you to be happy. But be warned Satan wants to deceive you to be happy the wrong way, which falls apart every time. Perhaps what went wrong is that sin, complete with the knowledge of evil, introduced an alternate way to pursue happiness; a dangerous and deadly immoral pursuit. Is it possible that Christians can pursue happiness, from God and inline with His designs and institutes, virtuously? Can Christians want to be happy and that be ok with God? I think the answer is absolutely yes. Our loving Father wants us to be happy and knows that He is the One who can truly satisfy our hearts.
How many people are out there thinking that sinful ways will make them happy while they miss that it is God who designed them for happiness and only He and His designs that can fulfill that desire?