Are you happy?
With 231 years of American history behind us now, it’s a question worth asking. After all, our founding fathers wanted you and me to be happy. They boldly declared our independence by insisting on an unalienable right to “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”
And I’m glad they did.
Yet the question remains: after two centuries of pursuing happiness – are we happy?
Happiness, it seems, is an elusive thing.
America is arguably the most prosperous, strong and free nation the world has ever hosted, but bookstores sell more pages today on how to improve life and find happiness than just about anything else. This week’s top-sellers include “Your Best Life Now” and “You: Stay Young.”
The quest for happiness has led many of us in the wrong direction. Money doesn’t buy happiness; it often makes life more complicated. Achievement cannot guarantee happiness; it’s fleeting. Ease of life doesn’t secure happiness; such a life lacks purpose.
The Bible tells us that true happiness – a joy that is not tied to our circumstances – is found in God, not in us.
“Happy are the people whose God is the Lord!” (Psalm 144:14 – NKJV).
To find happiness, we have to stop looking deeper inside ourselves, stop trying to manipulate our circumstances, and look to our Creator.
While much of the world pursues happiness, God instead invites Christians to pursue holiness. “… but as He who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, because it is written, ‘Be holy, for I am holy’ ” (1 Peter 1:15 – NKJV).
God has created us to bring him glory by displaying his character in the world. We bring him glory as we are like him. When our lives are wrapped up in God, and his will, rather than ourselves and what we want, true happiness is not far off.
This is an utterly selfless pursuit, yet it brings the deepest sense of well-being possible: “Happy are the people whose God is the Lord!”
Did you notice anything interesting about the titles of those best-selling books I mentioned earlier? They appeal to a base self-centeredness that has plagued people since God kicked Adam and Eve out of the Garden of Eden. They suggest life is all about me and what works for me and if I somehow achieve what I want, happiness will come to me.
God’s word tells me that life is not about me, it’s about him. He created me for himself, and I find my greatest joy in fulfilling the purpose God has for me.
“For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them” (Ephesians 2:10 – NKJV).
Of course, we become God’s workmanship when we enter his family by faith in his son, Jesus Christ. In Christ, we are a new creation, crafted by God for his glory. And there is no greater joy than walking in God’s will.
Israel’s King David put this truth to music: “God blesses those people who refuse evil advice and won’t follow sinners or join in sneering at God. Instead, the Law of the LORD makes them happy, and they think about it day and night. They are like trees growing beside a stream …” (Psalm 1:1-3 – CEV).
God loves us enough to give us the freedom to try other routes to happiness. Most of us have done so. I know I have.
Watch a few minutes of television these days and it’s easy to see that material prosperity is what most people see as the key to happiness.
Here’s something to ponder, though: Studies show that after 30 years of unprecedented economic growth, Americans were no happier in the 1970s than they were after World War II. Today, in China, where people have enjoyed a staggering 250 percent increase in average wages in the last 15 years, life satisfaction has actually declined. (New York Times, Nov. 12, 2007).
Happiness is found in God, not us.
Still looking for happiness? It may not be as far off as you think.
“Happy are the people whose God is the Lord.”