The room burst into laughter as my youth pastor, doing his best Sheryl Crow impersonation, sang, “If it makes you haa-pyyy, it can’t be that baa-aad.” While intentionally making us laugh, he also sought to open our eyes to an important lesson. Society proclaims happiness is the ultimate goal in life, but that is a lie.
I wish I’d heeded my youth pastor’s warning and never let happiness rule my life, but without realizing it, I bought into the lie. I searched for fulfillment from fun jobs, happy relationships, and new adventures. Only after many years did I understand the danger of seeking happiness above all else.
The Danger of Seeking Happiness
1. Happiness is deceitful.
God designed us to need a deep connection to Him, without it, we are incomplete. But happiness deceives us into believing we’re complete without Him as long as we’re happy.
Happiness tells us, “I can satisfy you! Keep pursing what makes you happiest.” But the truth is, happiness only brings temporary satisfaction and distracts us from the fact that we are seeking after the wrong thing.
2. Happiness is elusive.
People strive after money, success, new technology, or a great adventure, believing it will make them happy. But Christian counselors, Henry Cloud and John Townsend, found the opposite is actually true.
“People who always want to be happy and pursue it above all else are some of the most miserable people in the world.” (from Boundaries in Marriage)
Since happiness only satisfies temporarily, we must continually pursue it. But no matter how hard we work, or how much we sacrifice in the name of happiness, we will never get what our soul truly desires.
3. Happiness fosters selfishness.
When we place happiness at the center of our lives, the purpose for everything becomes gratification. We constantly ask ourselves, “Does this person, activity, or work make me happy?” If the answer is no, we walk away.
This type of thinking leaves no room for acting for the good of others, or doing the right thing even when it’s hard.
The Bible is pretty clear on the issues of selfishness:
“But for those who are self-seeking and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, there will be wrath and fury.” Romans 2:8 (ESV)
4. Happiness inhibits personal and spiritual growth.
When we walk away from anything and anyone who does not bring us happiness, we miss opportunities to grow. “The truth is (and this is why happiness is such a horrible value) that when we are not happy, something good may be happening. You may have been brought to that moment of crisis because of the need for growth, and that crisis may be the solution to much of what is wrong with your life.” (Cloud and Townsend, Boundaries in Marriage.)
God desires us to learn and grow, not just for our own advantage, but for the benefit of others as.
“Instead, we will speak the truth in love, growing in every way more and more like Christ, who is the head of his body, the church. He makes the whole body fit together perfectly. As each part does its own special work, it helps the other parts grow, so that the whole body is healthy and growing and full of love.” Ephesians 4:15-16 (NLT)
When our desire for happiness gets in the way of personal and spiritual growth, the whole body of Christ suffers.
The Blessing of Pursuing Righteousness
Bible Commentator Matthew Henry says, “Something or other the soul will be hungering and thirsting after; therefore they are blessed who fasten upon the right object, which is satisfying, and not deceiving.”
Therefore, to avoid the danger of seeking after happiness, we must fix our soul upon the right object: righteousness. As Jesus tells us:
“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.” Matthew 5:6 (ESV)
If you read The Beatitudes: Our Guide to Joy, you will know that the word “blessed” here can be translated as happy. Only, it’s not happy as I have defined it here; it is more like joy.
When we make righteousness our primary objective we are choosing:
- Full satisfaction over temporary satisfaction.
- What our soul desires over a poor placeholder.
- God’s way over the world’s way.
- Mature faith over mediocre Christianity.
- Everlasting joy over momentary happiness.
As citizens of God’s kingdom, let us make righteousness, and not happiness, our ultimate goal. The Bible promises it is worth it.
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