Tuesday, April 30, 2013

The Pursuit of Happiness

Recently my two oldest boys have been learning about early American history at school.  My eight year old even had to memorize part of the Declaration of Independence!  Most of us probably can't quote as much of that historic document as he had to do, but I'm sure most, if not all, of us know that one famous line about "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness."  

Obviously the men who founded our great nation felt like every citizen should have the right to pursue happiness, and we as a nation have done quite well at focusing on that pursuit.  We change jobs, houses, cars, even relationships based on whether or not they make us "happy."  We buy things or eat things or do things trying to satisfy that longing for happiness.  But really, what are we trying to achieve?  What is "happiness?"  Is it feeling good all the time?  Or maybe feeling safe and comfortable?  I think we as Americans have equated happiness with having what we want without having to sacrifice anything to get it.

Would it shock you if I said that I think pursuing happiness is a waste of time? Sure, for the fleeting moment that it actually exists, happiness feels good.  But once it fades, we are left empty-handed and have to start all over again.  What if, instead, we poured our energies into pursuing something that would last more than a moment, something that had real meaning?  What if instead of pursuing "happiness" in life, we pursued "fullness?"  Happiness is like going to a party for an hour or two and then realizing that you are still going home to an empty house.  Fullness of life is opting to skip the party so that you can sit around the dinner table with your family and talk for two hours.  Sure, it's not as exciting or as flashy as a party, but it has a depth and a richness that lasts far beyond that one experience.  In the long run, which will be more satisfying?

Ultimately, life-long fulfillment comes not in pursuing things that make our lives happy, but things that make it full, and really that doesn't mean "things" at all.  Instead, our lives are made full and complete by the other lives that they are intertwined with; our lives are made rich by the relationships that we pour ourselves into.  And the One life that connects us all is that of Jesus Christ.  If we would spend the same time and energy chasing after Him that we spend chasing after wealth or whatever it is that we think makes us happy, we would find our lives to be overflowing with goodness, abounding in purpose and fulfillment.

Too many times we treat our relationship with Christ and His Father as an afterthought.  We go to church and we try to read our Bibles and pray once in a while, but then we spend the rest of our days diligently trying to put money in the bank.  Developing a relationship with God is not an effortless thing; it is an all-out pursuit, which implies action on our part, and a lot of it.  When one of my kids got away from me when they were little, I didn't halfheartedly walk after them.  No!  I ran after them full-out!  And when a man has fallen head-over-heals with a woman, he doesn't just call her once in a while or stop by to see her when he's got nothing else to do; he pursues her.  He pours all the time and energy he can find into wooing her and capturing her heart.  He is determined not to let her get away!

This is the kind of passion that we need to have in chasing after God, in pursuing a relationship with Him.  The Scriptures tell us that if we seek Him out, we will find Him (1 Chronicles 28:9). But WE have to do the seeking!  Which requires action on our part!  We can't expect our relationship with God to develop on its own, nor can we require that God do all the work.  We must be intentional about pursuing Him.

If my Dad taught me one thing in life, it is this: anything worth having is worth working for.  Yes, a full and satisfying relationship with God is going to take work, and probably a lot of it.  But at the end of the day, when the "happiness" of the moment is gone, your hard work will be rewarded with a deep satisfaction that can't be found anywhere but in Jesus.  
"The thief’s purpose is to steal and kill and destroy. My purpose is to give them a rich and satisfying life." John 10:10, NLT

Next time: Pursing God through His Word

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