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Sunday, January 17, 2016

The Pursuit of Happiness

We've been told that God Himself gave us the right to, among other things, the pursuit of happiness. In truth, I've always balked at that. There is this concern, you see. If God gave us the right to pursue happiness and my idea of happiness is, say, whacking people on the head, well, then, there's a problem. I still believe that this whole "right to the pursuit of happiness" thing needs to be much clearer, but I'm not so hard over anymore against the basic premise.

There is a feeling in much of Christendom that we aren't supposed to be happy. We're supposed to be self-controlled, subdued, meek, quiet, those kinds of things. You know, your basic killjoy. And yet Scripture is full of what Pollyanna referred to as "happy passages". We are, in fact, commanded to "rejoice in the Lord always" (1 Thess 5:16). So while I might question the whole "pursuit of happiness" thing, clearly Christians are to be joyful (Gal 5:22). And, when I think about it, I think this is a matter of design.

Jonathan Edwards wrote in The Freedom of the Will that humans will always act according to their strongest inclinations. I think, in a similar way, human beings always seek happiness. Call it joy if you wish. Maybe even pleasure. But in everything we do, I think -- like with the will -- we're seeking to acquire that which we believe will make us happy. If you think your highest joy will come from sex, you will pursue that. If you think it comes from food, you will pursue that. If you think it comes from good looks or fame or power or ... well, you get the idea. And I think we're designed that way.

Nehemiah said, "The joy of the Lord is your strength." (Neh 8:10) Jesus told His disciples, "These things I have spoken to you, that My joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full." (John 15:11) He said, "Ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full." (John 16:24) In the fruit of the Spirit, joy is prominent (Gal 5:22). Real joy, then, comes from the pursuit of God.

If we believe that our ultimate joy is in the Lord, we will spend our time seeking the Lord. You know, like it says in the Bible (Matt 6:21). It's not a problem. It's part of our design. The problem occurs when we seek to find that happiness in places our Designer never intended. And now I'm back to my questions about the right to the pursuit of happiness.


Marshal Art said...

Someone put it in a manner similar to this, that we are endowed with the right to pursue happiness, but we're to catch it on our own. The right to pursue it, then, is not the same as the right to have it. From the perspective of government, I think this is a good distinction that the assertion of this right puts forth. I think as a nation, we've gotten away from this, as it seems some are using government and/or the courts to achieve what they believe will bring them happiness.

With that said, what makes us happy versus what should is a good discussion to have. God has provided us with all we need to be happy, both by, as you say, seeking joy in Him, as well as the many gifts that abound in life. I think this goes to the passages that speak of serving two masters, and storing up treasures. We seek treasures in heaven first, and then those that please us personally.

Stan said...

It is true that the phrase does not say we have a divine right to happiness. The phrase only says we have the right to pursue it. Biblically, of course, there would be further limitations. But who's counting?