The pursuit of happiness: Can it be part of God’s will?

It is a common goal for most people to achieve some sort of happiness. In fact, it is an idea that most Americans see as their ultimate dream. We are often told to do more of what brings us pleasure.

It is a nice thought: to pursue what makes us happy. For students, this may look like a road trip with friends or going to a concert every week. Or perhaps you are studying for a career that you hope will make you happy.

But can we really pursue enjoyment and delight at all times? More importantly, is it acceptable to live our lives as Christians with the goal of achieving happiness? Asking ourselves this question can make us uncomfortable. The inevitable question, “What would Jesus do?” does not make things much clearer.

A recent article published in Relevant Magazine, entitled “Does the American Dream conflict with God’s will?” touched some of the problems with pursuing such a goal as self-interested as personal happiness.

“The American Dream is not inherently wrong,” wrote Seth Silvers for Relevant. “A desire to grow, progress and succeed is healthy. But when that drive becomes our identity, we can lose sight of our purpose as sons and daughters of God.”

We The Threefold Advocate believe that setting such a temporary, fleeting feeling as happiness as our goal instead of finding joy in Christ is not what we are called to do. Happiness fades, always needing to be replenished by something else, something new. If people spend their lives trying to be happy, they will always come up empty in the end. Searching for ultimate happiness in this world is a fruitless goal.

In addition, striving for earthly happiness is contradictory to what we have learned through Scripture; however, this does not mean desiring happiness is inherently evil or wrong. Happiness is obviously a positive thing, but becoming obsessed with it and losing sight of what is truly important leads to a serious problem.

For example, if happiness looks like owning all the coolest clothes or having the newest technological gadget, then an unhealthy materialism can develop. Or, for some, happiness is found in getting high or drinking too much. Or spending too much time at work, or playing video games all day.

Many of these things are not so detrimental in moderation, but when they become the source of our joy instead of Christ, there is a problem. We start to rely on ourselves and things of the world in our selfish attempts to make ourselves happy instead of the one from whom all joy comes.

We must remember to keep ourselves oriented toward God if we want to experience true joy. As the well-known hymn by Helen Howarth Lemmel reminds us, “Turn your eyes upon Jesus, look full in His wonderful face, and the things of earth will grow strangely dim, in the light of His glory and grace.”