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The dangerous pursuit of happiness

Renew/ Attitudes
Many of us have bought into the world’s view of happiness, which entails being secure, popular, entertained, in a relationship and self-fulfilled. Happiness, as the world preaches, may look fulfilling on the outside but is ultimately temporal. Deep contentment can only be found by resting in God’s unmovable love, peace, protection and joy.

 

John 14:27 ESV Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.

The dangers of pursuing happiness

The world preaches a doctrine that says we will accumulate happiness by practising consumerism, optimism, individualism, hedonism, intellectualism, perfectionism, workaholism etc. As we all know, such ‘isms will never be enough to satisfy our thirsty souls.

The more we accumulate or achieve, the more meaningless it becomes. What was once new and meaningful becomes outdated and boring. No matter how much we stuff our appetites, hearts, resumes and homes with, there will always be something more to keep striving towards. As the writer of Ecclesiastes points out, we simply end up “chasing the wind“.

Ecclesiastes 2:10-11 NLT Anything I wanted, I would take. I denied myself no pleasure. I even found great pleasure in hard work, a reward for all my labors. But as I looked at everything I had worked so hard to accomplish, it was all so meaningless—like chasing the wind. There was nothing really worthwhile anywhere.

True happiness, security and fulfilment come as a result of who we are in a relationship with our Maker, not what we do or achieve.

A desire for happiness blinds us to God’s better plan

The perpetual pursuit of happiness is a dangerous mentality to bring into our relationship with God Almighty. Here is why.

1. Keeps us striving

Many things can bring us happiness but they can’t keep us happy forever. This creates a restless life that is focused on the next source of happiness. We curse ourselves into a state of constant dissatisfaction, thinking “Maybe if …., then I will be happy”.

John 16:33 ESV I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.”

God’s Word calls us to rest in Him. He is the source of joy, peace and contentment. Those of us who are used to chasing happiness will find resting in such a simple promise almost unthinkable.

Isaiah 30:15 ESV For thus said the Lord God, the Holy One of Israel, “In returning and rest you shall be saved; in quietness and in trust shall be your strength.” But you were unwilling,

2. Points us to an outward focus when the answer is inward

There are many tangible sources of happiness we can spend money and time chasing.

However, it is not the tangible that is invaluable, but the invisible. We can’t buy good health, unshakeable confidence and deep peace or make someone love us unconditionally. All these are gifts from God. 

Psalm 103:2-5 ESV  Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits, who forgives all your iniquity, who heals all your diseases, who redeems your life from the pit, who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy, who satisfies you with good so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.

Romans 15:13 ESV May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.

When we establish a close personal relationship with the Creator of the entire universe, our lives will start to have great meaning and purpose. We are able to answer four critical questions that burn inside every one of us:

  1. Who am I? 
  2. What am I here for?
  3. Am I using all my gifts to their full potential? 
  4. How can I make this life meaningful and significant? 

Suddenly, whatever we do will no longer just be “chasing the wind”.

3. Makes our love for God conditional on Him making us happy

If happiness is our goal, we will inadvertently expect God to make us happy too. We will pray for the things that we like and expect Him to serve them to us.

Our Creator promises us something much more valuable than happiness. He offers us a relationship with Him. The Bible does not talk about us becoming happy, but becoming holy and blameless. God promises to make us just like His perfect Son, Jesus Christ.

Colossians 1:22 NLT  Yet now he has reconciled you to himself through the death of Christ in his physical body. As a result, he has brought you into his own presence, and you are holy and blameless as you stand before him without a single fault.

4. Blinds us to God’s plans for adversity and discipline

Happiness does not go well with adversity and discipline. 

Adversity is a great teacher of wisdom and endurance. The discipline we need to learn and apply during adversity does not feel good nor make us happy. That discipline is however, necessary for us to become stronger, wiser and grateful for the lessons we learn. This training and self-control enables us to win a greater prize; character building that leads to greater eternal and good rewards in heaven for us. Chasing happiness can look frivolous in comparison. 

1 Corinthians 9:24-25 ESV  Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever.

Job 5:17 ESV  “Behold, blessed is the one whom God reproves; therefore despise not the discipline of the Almighty.

We need to be free from idolatry

Inside every human being is a deep desire for the peace, joy and hope that God promises us through His Holy Spirit. Without God, we simply follow the patterns of this world to chase happiness. 

Philippians 4:7 ESV  And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Romans 15:13 ESV  May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.

Anything that we place in higher priority than our Almighty Father becomes our idol. It is now time to put away our idolatry of happiness and to honour our relationship with God first. Unconfessed sins leave us unable to be “holy and blameless” in His sight. Before we continue to idolise happiness as our “saviour” and add yet another sin that blocks us from God, let us repent of our pursuit of happiness and pursue God instead.

 

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