The Pursuit of [Lasting] Happiness
Recently I watched an Olympic Gold Medalist give an interview after reaching that preeminent achievement born out of a lifetime of effort. Their reaction made sense as they exclaimed, “This is the best day of my life!”
After logging the years of training and dedicating their life to this skill set, they were experiencing a reward so few will ever know! Olympic Gold! And how could they not be happier than ever before!? I admired their work ethic, ability, and the courage it took to face down the moment of competition once again; bravo! But I also couldn’t help but recall the reflections of another who had given every possible happiness an honest try only to realize that this “best day of my life” feeling didn’t quite last:
Then I considered all that my hands had done and the toil I had expended in doing it, and behold, all was vanity and a striving after wind, and there was nothing to be gained under the sun. – Ecclesiastes 2:11
A fleeting and unfulfilling let-down. Has that been your experience of your greatest joys? What was the happiest moment of your life, that event or occasion that brought the most pleasure and joy?
While I’ve been blessed with many possible candidates for that question, one thing is true about all of them: the sustained feeling didn’t last. Even the most enduring and cherished delight relived a thousand times over can be a short-lived sensation. Sooner than we want: we’re hungry again, tired again, discontent, unsatisfied, let down by them, still not quite fully happy.
In his book, Mere Christianity, C.S. Lewis riffed on this problem by observing, “If I find in myself desires which nothing in this world can satisfy, the only logical explanation is that I was made for another world.” If Lewis is right, and I think he is, our short-lived happiness problem isn’t actually a problem at all! It’s a gift!
Just as hunger can lead us to a meal, better, in fact, our longing for a lasting pleasure can lead us to a source of meaning that lasts forever. The Psalmists pick up where Lewis was leading:
Psalms 107:9 For He satisfies the longing soul, and the hungry soul he fills with good things.
Psalms 16:11 … in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.
Pleasure forever. Complete happiness. Satisfied longings. Filled with good. As we follow God’s story, we discover that he created us with a desire for happiness because HE is good and our good. We find our greatest pleasure in Him.
So, how do we pursue this lasting happiness?
· Leverage the Temporary: accomplishments, relationships, fine dining, and breathtaking vista — there is much to enjoy in our world! In any blessing, leverage the happiness that you experience as a reminder that you were made to experience something truly wonderful — more wonderful, in fact. In expressing any joy, re-orient your thoughts and feelings towards God to continue to anchor your happiness where it ought to be.
· Experience the Eternal: Jesus said, “I am the bread of life: whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst” (John 6:35.) Do you know the satisfaction he was referencing? We can know the happiness of a life fulfilled in God by repenting of our sin and believing that Jesus lived and died in our place and for us. This grace becomes the start and finish of a life that is happy.
The good life belongs to those who know and are known by God!