Does God Deliver Happiness? ~ BitterSweetLife

Friday, January 20, 2006

Does God Deliver Happiness?

Joy like sunlight?

Riffing on yesterday’s post, I had a couple clarifying (hopefully) thoughts on ‘happiness.’ Specifically, where does it come from, and what is it?

We’ve all read that quote by Henry Louis Mencken: “If you want peace, work for justice.” And, if you read A Song Searching for Happiness, it’s possible you derived a similar equation. Something like, If you want happiness, look for God. But this would not be precisely accurate.

It could be seen as implying that via God we get what we really want; that is, a working relationship with the Creator sanctifies all the other good stuff that we’re actually obsessed with: Sex, money, prestige, etc., etc. In this scheme, God becomes an avenue toward my own desires. God is the means to my self-esteem, my self-promotion, (to use sinisterbaby’s phrase) my ‘self-actualization.’ So I go on committing this crime of self-focus, and God becomes the accessory.

But happiness is God. This is the shocking part about the happiness formula—its simplicity. As the warrior-king David wrote in Psalm 16, “In your presence is fullness of joy; in your right hand there are pleasures forever.”

God himself is the source of joy, like the sun is the source of daylight. He isn’t interested in aiding and abetting our inferior "bests," no matter how truly we believe in them. Can we enjoy other good things? Of course. But unless the Creator has been encountered, those secondary pleasures leave just a passing taste in the mouth.

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John B. said...

Your comment about our hoping that God will sanctify those things that REALLY make us happy reminds me of that part of an interview with the creator of The Book of Daniel (I'm assuming most readers know about this new NBC series) that I heard on Fresh Air just last night. Terry Gross played a clip from the pilot in which Daniel is talking with Jesus after an especially bad day. The upshot of the clip was that Jesus never claims this life will be any easier JUST BECAUSE of belief in him; in fact, towards the end of the clip, Jesus gently mocks the whole religion-disguised-as-self-help notion that some people have of belief when he suggests that his talks with Daniel be called "Tuesdays with Jesus."

It's a good shot, and/but it's one of those moments that upsets some about the show. Jesus? Facetious? Jesus' public image in most quarters these days is "Footprints." But the Gospels make pretty clear that Jesus had/has a sharp tongue directed at certain audiences; more to the point of Ariel's post, though, Jesus makes no false promises about our happiness in this world as Christians. "Go and sin no more," we all know, doesn't exactly grease the skids. That's a command, not a promise from/to anyone. Belief in Jesus, the source of happiness, SHOULD make obedience easier. But we still have to obey. And that's not easy.

Will Robison said...

I had a stunning thought yesterday as I approached the end of my Novel - if God asked me to destroy it, would I? I'd like to say that I answered right away that, of course, I would, but the truth is, I had to give it a lot of thought.

In Chariots of Fire, the Scottish runner's sister is concerned that he'll find more joy in winning than in God. Being a movie, of course, he has the perfect answer, that when he runs he can feel God's pleasure. The joy that's in his face at that moment makes you realize that there is happiness there that transcends any trinkets he could ever receive. Later, at the Olympics, when he finds out that his preliminary heat is scheduled for Sunday - the sabbath - he is crushed. And even though he is pressured by the Prince of Wales to change his mind, he doesn't. (He does eventually swap with another runner for a different race).

Eventually, I came to the conclusion that I would destroy the Novel if God asked me. He doesn't need the Novel. He doesn't even really care about the Novel. What He cares about is His relationship with me and anything that might get in the way of it, He will sweep aside. He is a jealous God.

What is our best compared to Him? What is a million dollars? What is a best-seller? What is an Oscar, or a Nobel Prize? These are just things. And God could make them or brake them in a split second. The real prize of any pursuit should always be a closer walk with God.

HeyJules said...

Just less than a year ago, I found myself reunited in my love for living a God-filled life and after a couple of weeks of feeling like a newborn baby, this very thought "Happiness IS God" occurred to me, too. Suddenly, after 25 years of wanting more, wanting something different, wanting anything but what I had - sudeenly, I was at peace. I had all I'd ever need. I had finally, finally found what had been missing.

done said...

I just have to say Amen:)
Take care, Elisa:)

Pastor Peter Burch said...

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Oneway said...


Your comment thrilled my soul. Praise Jesus.

R. Sherman said...

Great Post. It seems to me that too many of us Christians believe that our spiritual journey will lead to happiness, joy, pleasure or whatever in this life, and that if we don't experience that, we're somehow lacking in faith or purity. I think that true happiness and joy for the Christian comes in knowing that we are part of something bigger, a plan which is greater than the sum of the parts. Therefore, if I don't have those things which the world has determined to be a prerequisite for "happiness" or "success," it doesn't matter. I can be secure that my experiences have a purpose.



P.S. I knew the 'Huskers would be in trouble this week. I'd hate to face the Jayhawks after losing to MU. Sadly, my consistantly inconsistant Tigers couldn't maintain against the Wildcats.

Ariel said...

Above are some great comments. When I read them back to back, my reaction was: Best comments on a post ever!

Maybe I'm overstating the excellence of your responses...I tend to think not. I'll just say that I really enjoyed reading your thoughts, and leave it at that.

Thanks very much.


Culture. Photos. Life's nagging questions. - BitterSweetLife