A few years ago John Stossel hosted an ABC special called “The Mystery of Happiness: Who Has It & How to Get It.”
Stossel pointed out that three hundred years ago, life was really and hard most people had to endure poverty and disease in a struggle to achieve eternal happiness in Heaven. Stossel also mentioned that when Thomas Jefferson included the right to the pursuit of happiness in our Constitution that was a radical idea that changed American life.
What stood out to me from what I remember about the program was that when Stossel asked people in poorer nations if they were happy he often got the answer, “I don’t even think about that question.” Yet in the United States, where one of our inalienable rights is the pursuit of happiness, many people are continually evaluating whether they are happy or not and relentlessly pursuing that elusive bluebird of happiness.
I don’t ask myself if I’m happy. I don’t believe the Bible encourages us to be continually evaluating ourselves as to whether or not we are “happy.” Now before you jump all over me and send me a score of Bible verses about happiness, I believe that Jesus gives us deep biblical joy. But rather than asking myself am I happy, rather I ask myself questions like these: Am I rejoicing? Am I content in Christ? Am I trusting Jesus? Do I have hope in him? These would be the questions I would ask myself rather than “Am I happy.”
I regularly ask Jesus to fill me with his joy. And he does. But at the same time Paul also said that he was “sorrowful yet always rejoicing” (2 Corinthians 6:10).
I don’t have happy feelings all the time. But I am so glad that Jesus saved me and washed my sins away with his blood and I try to regularly thank him that he will never leave me nor forsake me and that someday I will see his face. I regularly rejoice that his mercies are new every morning and his steadfast love never ceases.
Sometimes people translate the word “Blessed” as” Happy.” I see them as two different things. To be blessed is to be favored by God. To be the object of his grace. But to be blessed does not necessarily mean I will have happy feelings. In the beatitudes, Jesus said blessed are the poor in spirit, those who mourn, the meek, those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, those reviled and persecuted for Christ’s sake. None of these things make you feel particularly happy.
Should we pursue happiness? If you mean pursue Jesus Christ who will satisfy our deepest desires, then yes. If we pursue happiness apart from Jesus, then we will certainly come up empty-handed. If we seek Jesus and his will we will be fulfilled even if we are not technically “happy.”
I often think about Christians who are suffering horrifically for their faith in North Korean prison camps. If we were to ask them if they are happy I would imagine they would not describe themselves as “happy.” I can’t imagine they would ask themselves that question. But I believe they would say that despite the agonies they endure for the glory of Jesus, that ultimately they are blessed and someday will experience the weight of glory their sufferings are preparing.
Am I happy when I suffer or things don’t go my way? Not necessarily, but I can be joyful. I can rejoice and do all things through Christ who strengthens me.
Don’t pursue happiness. Don’t ask yourself if you are happy. Pursue Christ. Ask him for joy and let him take care of the happiness part.