The Pursuit of Happiness

Often, as men, we spend our lives seeking after happiness. Scientific studies have been done to answer the question, “Are We Happy Yet?” There is a Springer’s Journal of Happiness Studies, a website titling itself the World Database of Happiness, and countless articles and self-help books on how to make oneself feel happier.

Some seek wealth, hoping they could purchase enough things to make them happy. Solomon sought happiness through the wealth he accumulated. Ecclesiastes 2 details a great list of luxuries Solomon acquired for himself. In verse 10 he tells us, “Whatever my eyes desired I did not keep from them.” Solomon was a wealthy king. I Kings 10:14-15 detail just exactly how much he earned in one year: 666 talents of gold plus all the additions mentioned generally in verse 15. To receive that amount today one must receive over 700 million US dollars per year. Ecclesiastes 2:17-26 tell us that Solomon realized all this wealth was vanity and grasping for the wind. Verse 18 says, “Then I hated all my labor in which I had toiled under the sun, because I must leave it to the man who will come after me.” Solomon’s despair came because he realized how temporal wealth was. What was it worth to him when he was dead? Solomon concludes by saying, “For God gives wisdom and knowledge and joy to a man who is good in His sight; but to the sinner He gives the work of gathering and collecting, that he may give to him who is good before God. This also is vanity and grasping for the wind.”(v. 26) Joy is given to the one who is good before God. Happiness is given to the man who uses what he is given for good purposes before God.

This same principle holds true for all things temporal and earthly that bring us happiness. God has shown us in His word what brings happiness. It isn’t fine stuff, many friends, power, or authority.Rather it is found in labor, in endurance, and (the key to all these) in God as our help.

In Labor

Psalm 128:2 tells us, “When you eat the labor of your hands, you shall be happy, and it shall be well with you.” Considering what we learned from Solomon in Ecclesiastes 2, this is a very intriguing verse. What makes a man happy about eating the labor of his hands? Is it that he has acquired these things, like Solomon did, so that they might bring him some pleasure, or is it that this man sees in this food two very important facts, 1) that he did something worthwhile to receive this bread, and 2) that this bread is a gift from God. Consider Ecclesiastes 5:18-20,

Here is what I have seen: It is good and fitting for one to eat and drink, and to enjoy the good of all his labor in which he toils under the sun all the days of his life which God GIVES him; for it is his heritage. As for every man to whom God has GIVEN riches and wealth, and GIVEN him power to eat of it, to receive his heritage and rejoice in his labor – this is the GIFT of God. For he will not dwell unduly on the days of his life, because God keeps him busy with the joy of his heart.

While Solomon found these temporal blessings to be vanity and grasping for the wind, he also saw them as something to be enjoyed and appreciated as a true blessing from God. When we do good, when we work with our hands, we can know that He has blessed us with what we need in this life. In this we find a true happiness.

In Enduring

Consider what James 5:11 tells us about the prophets who suffered with much patience, “Indeed we count them blessed who endure.” Other translations will use the word “happy” instead of blessed. We consider them well off. They were fortunate to have suffered for the sake of Christ and endured. The verse goes on to ask us to remember the perseverance of Job, to remember the suffering and trials he endured. Couple this with James 1:2-3, “My brethren count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience.” Trials and suffering give us opportunities to grow in strength, and we are blessed if we endure. Job was well pleasing to God when he remembered that he did not come into this world with anything, and he wasn’t going to take anything out of this world. God gave it to him, and God had the right to take it away. He finished his thought at the end of Job 1:21 by saying, “Blessed be the name of the Lord.” Job was willing to endure whatever situation God appointed for him with thanksgiving in his heart. What caused this sense of joy in Job, or this sense of happiness in all the prophets? It had to be that they were looking forward to what would be coming. If they suffered for God, they looked more longingly to the day when they could find eternal rest.

Happiness is not found in wealth or temporal blessings, because they cannot endure and will not fulfill our life. Enduring life’s trials and tribulations for the cause of Christ will produce happiness for the very same reason. We can see that these trials and tribulations will not last. Consider Job 19. After describing his destitute situation, Job says in verse 25-27,

For I know that my Redeemer lives, and He shall stand at last on the earth; and after my skin is destroyed, this I know, that in my flesh I shall see God…How my heart yearns within me.

These trials, like wealth, are temporal. And when we endure we produce patience, which, allowing it to have its perfect work, will make us perfect and complete lacking nothing (James 1:4).

In God’s help

Psalms 146:5 says, “Happy is he who has the God of Jacob for his help, whose hope is in the Lord his God.” Paul writes in Romans 8:31, “What shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?” and a little later in Romans 8:38-39, “For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” The God who loved Jacob is the same God who loves us. He will provide for our needs and protect us in times of despair. The pleasures of this temporal life are unable to quench our desires for happiness and joy. They bring us spurts of happiness or joy, but much like a glass of water, eventually they end, and we have to go seeking more pleasures to provide us with this same enjoyment. In God we understand that we will always be blessed. In Him is living water that shall cause us to never thirst again (John 4:14). Paul explained this very well in Philippians 4:11-13. He learned to be content in whatever state of being he found himself. He considered himself always blessed…why? Because, he “could do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”

Therefore, we must always seek God first. Seek the peace that comes through Him. Seek the “joy inexpressible and full of glory,” (I Peter 1:8-9). God then will add to us what we need. He will comfort our hearts. He will provide us with what we need. We can be, and only will be, content if we do the work God has for us, enduring all this life’s trials, leaning on our ever loving God for help and wisdom to overcome.

Therefore, do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For after all these things the Gentiles seek. For your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you. (Matthew 6:31-33)

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