Putting the cart before the horse

No other age in Western history has been as obsessed with finding happiness as our current one.

And is it just a coincidence that no other age in Western history has been as estranged from God as our current one?

Most people today (including Christians) believe that happiness is a human right, and so they spend all of their time and money pursuing things they think will make them happy.

But if that to-do list of things doesn’t include “doing God’s will”, their efforts will be in vain. They’ll just be putting the happiness cart before the doing-God’s-will horse, which will get them nowhere fast.

Turning your back on God when you’re trying to find happiness is like pouring a glass of sand into your mouth when you’re thirsty. It will only make things worse.

Jesus says: “Seek ye first the Kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.”

By “all these things”, Jesus means everything that you need in life, including happiness.

I see this endless pursuit of happiness in many people around me. They travel the world to find happiness, attend parties to find happiness, look for the perfect job to find happiness, look for the perfect love to find happiness, drink and take drugs to find happiness, go shopping to find happiness, go golfing to find happiness – even read books instructing in minute detail how they can find happiness, only to find that happiness has eluded them yet again because happiness is one of those things that you cannot find if you’re looking for it.

Happiness is a side benefit, not an end in itself.

Seek ye first the Kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.”

Before being born again, I was rarely happy. And if I was happy, it wasn’t because I was trying to be happy, it was just God in his mercy giving me a respite from my otherwise perpetual misery of sin. Interestingly, those respites always seemed to happen when I was “in nature” – sitting by the ocean, walking through the woods, or laying in a field looking up at the sky. So I, like many sinners, started to associate “being in nature” with “being happy”, without making the connection that the natural world was God’s creation and so it was actually God (who I didn’t believe existed) comforting me.

Since being born again, I am rarely NOT happy. In fact, I have become a puzzle to those who know me who are not Christians. I suspect they secretly suspect that I must be drunk (even though I don’t drink anymore) or on some kind of drug that is producing this perpetual euphoria in me. Even when I have a cold, I’m cheerful. How can this be?

Jesus compared God’s Spirit to an endless spring of water welling up inside of us. This is my experience of God’s Spirit. It is a constant presence of joy and happiness that is palpable as long as I do God’s will. The only time it is absent from me is if I start going my own way or thinking my own thoughts that draw me away from God. I know when my thoughts and doings are drawing me away from God because the joy and happiness start to fade and I have to work at loving people instead of just loving them. This is my cue to run back to God as fast as my little legs will carry me and jump back up on his lap, where I belong.

Happiness, then, like all good things, is a gift from God – either a brief mercy (for those who hate him) or a side benefit of doing his will (for those who love him).

It is a folly to pursue happiness in and of itself, unless the pursuit of it is all you want.

Do God’s will, and happiness will pursue you.

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