“I needed to be happy, so I ____________________.”
How many different ways do people fill in this blank?
- “…left my spouse.”
- “…quit my job.”
- “…stopped going to church.”
- “…aborted my child.”
- “…drank my sorrows away.”
- “…took some “me” time”
How would you fill in the blank?
Or, would you even say this at all?
There may come a time when we quit our job because it has become destructive to our health, spiritual life, or families. There may be a season in which you are so physically and mentally depleted that you do need a little time alone to refresh. There might be some sin-issue within a congregation that requires you to move on to a new one.
Making dramatic life changes simply to pursue “happiness” is, however, quite another matter.
I watched a video this past week in which a woman talked about feeling trapped within her “perfect life” (perfect job, perfect husband, etc.,). She kept “curating this painting” (her expression) while feeling utterly sad. Near the end of the video, she said, “I needed to be happy, so I broke free of the painting—I left my husband and my ‘perfect’ life—and found a beautiful masterpiece underneath.”
I wish I could tell you that she left it all to follow Christ, or that she was motivated by some higher calling, or perhaps escaped an abusive relationship. Unfortunately, the sole motivator was her “happiness.” I wonder how long her new-found happiness will last.
Soldiers do not enter battle to be happy. The apostles did not gain personal pleasure or prosperity in preaching the gospel, but were stoned, sawn in two, beaten, imprisoned, and exiled. In fact, many of the people we admire throughout history rarely gained “happiness” in their efforts to make the world a better place.
Humanity’s endless pursuit of happiness stems from an overinflated sense of self-importance. We make ourselves the ultimate “I AM” instead of worshipping the true “I AM” (God). We fashion ourselves into gods that must be happy—or else—and end up tossing away true joy. This isn’t limited to modern-day self-idolization. The desire to serve self goes all the way back to the garden of Eden.
But the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die. For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.
So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate…
Genesis 3.4-6, ESV
Satan sold Eve a lie. Adam and Eve had already been made in the image (likeness) of God. Unfortunately, Eve fell into Satan’s scheme in order to please herself. We have been enduring the consequences of that particular “pursuit of happiness” ever since.
When people choose to make themselves into “gods”—gods who must be satisfied, admired, and adored—they fail to realize that there may be other self-made gods running around. Sometimes these little gods get married to each other and discover that their spouse wants to be their greater god in that relationship. At other times, these wannabe deities rage at others who fail to “make them happy,” unaware that they have crossed swords with another wannabe deity. Rather than finding ourselves in a paradise of happy people, we are caught in the clash of the titans. Marriages become furious battlefields, substance abuse runs rampant, and innocent victims get caught in the crossfire.
In fact, many of our modern political clashes are a direct result of people pursuing what they believe will make them happy:
- People wanting to engage in homosexuality are enraged when someone dares to call it sin. As a result, LGBTQ+ activists are doing everything they can—passing legislation to legitimize their behavior, suing people who refuse to glorify their choice—in order to keep their “happy train” running.
- Women who don’t want the burden of a child (because the child will potentially hamper their opportunities, financial security, aka happiness) have pushed to legalize abortion to the point that they are now allowed to legally kill full-term babies. Anyone who dares speak against such laws are bigoted, narrow-minded, buzz-killers.
- The pursuit of socialism is motivated by covetousness: “You have the wealth that I want and that is unfair. In order for me to be happy, I’m going to force you to give me what you have.”
While there is nothing inherently wrong with being “happy,” it should not be a main motivator. The quest for happiness frequently tramples the needs of others underfoot.
When our spouse makes us “unhappy” because they have cancer, suffer mental illness, or are laid-off from their job, what do we do? Do we leave them? Or, do we respond with a servant’s heart, tending their wounds and helping them through the struggle?
When we suffer loss, do we unleash our anger on people attempting to help us, simply because they uttered the wrong words at the wrong moment or didn’t effectively soothe our pain? Or, do we exercise a little self-control and forgive them for their careless words?
If we pursue happiness and worship self, we will choose what satisfies us no matter who is wounded in the process.
Instead of seeking almighty happiness, we ought to seek Almighty God. As God’s adopted child, we have an inner fountain of joy completely independent of external circumstance. The joy of the Lord is something we share with others when we love others the way He loves us—and the fountain never runs dry! God loved us even when we worshipped ourself. He loved us even when we were selfish, unkind, and cruel. Jesus loved us enough to endure torture and death in order that we might have eternal life. Nobody on earth has ever loved us as deeply or as patiently as God and Jesus. Being loved so deeply should give us lasting joy.
Happiness is temporary; joy is eternal. I am not a god; I serve Jehovah God. Pursuing God is far more important than pursing happiness.
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another.
Galatians 5.22-26, ESV
Additional Posts On this Topic: