Friday, August 8, 2008

enjoying God (3) is it ok to seek happiness?

Is it ok to want to be happy? Doesn't everyone want to be happy? Blaise Pascal said:

All men seek happiness. This is without exception. (Pascal’s Pensees)
It's no different for Christians. The Bible is unembarrassed in its appeal to our desire for happiness: it warns us of everlasting sorrow if we reject Jesus, and attracts us with the promise of everlasting happiness.

Like everyone else, Christians seek happiness. But unlike everyone else, we're convinced that we will only find true happiness in Jesus. Becoming a Christian is an act of joy (Acts 16:34; 1 Pet. 1:8):

The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field. When a man found it, he hid it again, and then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought that field. (Matt 13:44-46)
This is no stoic refusal of happiness! This man isn't dragging his feet, reluctantly giving up the things he loves. Here's a guy so delighted to have found a treasure without price, that in his joy, he runs as fast as he can to sell all he owns so that he can buy it.

People don't become Christians just because they're convinced of the truth of Christianity, or the goodness of the Christian life. They are captured by the joy of knowing Christ. They know that only God can satisfy the deepest desires of the human soul.

So is it right to seek happiness? Yes, if we seek it in God. The first question of the Westminster Shorter Catechism goes like this:

Q. What is the chief end of man?
A. The chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy him forever.
We don't seek happiness as an end in itself, a certain set of emotions, or an empty experience. If that were the case, we might as well seek happiness in alcohol, or a sunset, or our favourite food. In the end, it's not happiness we seek, but God and his glory. And in glorifying him, we find our deepest joy.

Pursuing joy in God is no easy thing. It involves service, suffering, and sacrifice. It will cost all that we have. But paradoxically, in giving up all other joys to follow Jesus, we find joy beyond price and without measure.


Trevor Cairney said...

Thanks for the post Jean. Case #14 that we published earlier this year focussed on the theme "Seeking Happiness" and explored the observation of people from varied worldviews that in an age of unprecedented wealth, freedom and security that we have the highest rates of depression, eating disorders, suicide and family breakdown that we have seen in developed countries like Australia. Of course, like you, we sought biblical explanations for this while others seek the answer in other places.

Sharon said...

Hmm... I was studying the parable of the buried treasure (and its partner, the pearl of great price) a few weeks ago and came across an interpretation which explains that these parables (for which Jesus gave no recorded explanation) may have been talking of the price God paid for His people and the joy He takes in us. Not to go down the princess track that you've commented on before (or was that Simone at another something?) but just to say that God does take joy in us.

If it is possible that God should take joy in us, sinful (albeit redeemed) creatures that we are, how much greater joy should we have, knowing we are a source of joy to the Creator Himself?

The problem, as I see it, is that we so often seek for joy and happiness in things that will never satisfy. These are the idols of our modern life: food, fame, money, power, clothes, TV, blogs... the list goes on and on! I ask myself, when is the time when I have felt most at peace, most joyous, most restful? When I have had a prolonged period of reading the Bible and responding to what I have read in prayer.

~ Sharon

Jean said...

Huh! What do you know? I'll have to check a commentary on that one!!

And I quite agree. On the times we find joy, that is.