Do You Wanna Be Happy? The Pursuit of Happiness

“Then He (Jesus) began to speak, and taught them.” Matthew 5:2 (NRS)

This short question was introduced to me through the latest song by the gospel extraordinaire, Kirk Franklin.  I think Brother Kirk’s popularity comes from being able to capture in his songs the key questions people may ask as they live out this Christian walk.  In this particular song, there is ongoing dialog with an individual who appears to be frustrated with life after unsuccessful attempts to find happiness.  Exasperated with their situation, they sadly cry out, “I just wanna be happy.”

Happiness is defined as a state of well-being and contentment.  Happiness is truly a function of one’s personal perception, circumstance, and desire.  For the person who is lonely, happiness may be experiencing true friendship and community.  For the individual who feels powerless, happiness may be wealth and influence.  Regardless of the need behind the pursuit of happiness, the quest to find it has been and continues to be man’s greatest quest.  “We just wanna be happy!”

During the mid-20th century, the pursuit of happiness was found in the discovery of self.  “Self” became the surrogate for happiness—self-gratification, self-satisfaction, self-actualization.  I admit my part as a Baby Boomer in opening the door to our current fixation on “if it feels good do it” and “you can have it all”.  Our pursuit of personal happiness (versus God) did much to accelerate secularism, hedonism, and materialism.  “Sorry, we just wanted to be happy!”

With the dawn of the 21st century, man has now “turned his ear” (2 Tim. 4:4) to the sciences to help him find happiness.   One method currently under examination is positive psychology which is the study of happiness. Psychology has traditionally focused on dysfunction—people with mental illness or other psychological problems—and how to treat it. Positive psychology, in contrast, is a relatively new field that examines how ordinary people can become happier and more fulfilled.  “Yes Dr. Phil, we wanna be happy!”

In examining the different paths to happiness, there is one obvious way that is missing.  This way satisfies the earlier description given for happiness—the state of well-being and contentment.  That way is Jesus Christ—He is the Way, the Truth and the Life (John 14:6).  Well-being includes security, safety, and health.  In Psalm 18:2, David describes the source of his well-being as he is delivered from King Saul and his enemies:  “The LORD is my rock, my fortress, and my deliverer, my God, my rock in whom I take refuge, my shield, and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.”  Contentment encompasses serenity, satisfaction, and gladness.  The Apostle Paul exchanged his earthly power and position for great suffering and pain (2 Cor. 11:23-27) yet he proudly boasted in Phil. 4:11-13 (NRS):  “I have learned to be content with whatever I have.  I know what it is to have little, and I know what it is to have plenty. In any and all circumstances I have learned the secret of being well-fed and of going hungry, of having plenty and of being in need.  I can do all things through him who strengthens me.”  That sounds like happiness to me.

During the month of May, we will explore happiness from Jesus’ teaching of the Beatitudes (Matt. 5:1-12).   We will be providing special resources and teaching materials that will allow you to dig deep into what true happiness looks like from Jesus perspective. Join us next week as we begin our series, “Do You Wanna Be Happy?”

Good to the Last Byte…

Based on the world’s standard for happiness, Solomon, the greatest kings in the history of Israel, should have been the poster child for happiness.  He had it all—riches, power, and fame.  Yet he was not happy.  His discontent led to the writing of the book of Ecclesiastes, in which he called all that he pursued as “vanity” (hebel) which is interpreted as “meaningless”.  “Poor Solomon, he had it all yet he still wanted to be happy!”