The Pursuit of Happiness

Everything you do, you do in order to gain pleasure…happiness. The simple fact is that everyone does everything in order to be happy. You should never be ashamed of your desire to be happy – it is as natural as hunger. In fact, happiness is a universal hunger. The desire for happiness can never be changed, it is impossible to overcome, and it will never go away. It exists within young and old alike, good and bad, the wise and unwise. People certainly have different ideas as to what constitutes happiness and will pursue it according to their particular appetites, but this in no way alters the fact that its presence is universal among mankind. The problem isn’t in the passion, it’s in the paths that we take to enjoy the passion. We always choose what we think will ultimately maximise our personal happiness and minimise personal misery. If you make a decision that is immediately painful and uncomfortable and unsettling, I assure you it is because you believe that such a choice will generate more pleasure than not in the long term. In other words, you will gladly forego present pleasures if you believe the long-term benefits outweigh whatever sort of short-¬-term discomfort you might experience or sacrifice you might make. Likewise, you will ignore long-term consequences if you believe the immediate pleasures of a decision are worth the risk.

You may deny yourself the pleasure of a death by chocolate mud cake with hot fudge syrup now, because you believe the joy of weight loss later is worth it. Your desire for a long-¬-term satisfaction – the joy of a slimmer waistline, is stronger than the appeal of the mud cake now. So you weigh the competing pleasures…your will is energised based on your belief that one pleasure is better than others. But in every case you choose and act with a view to increasing joy and avoiding pain. Satan isn’t responsible for this…God is! God made you this way so that you would choose Him and His soul-¬- satisfying pleasures instead of those that pass with the using and ultimately leave you empty and miserable. The chief way in which you can glorify God is to seek the enjoyment and happiness that only He can provide. As someone has rightly said – ‘pleasure is the measure of our treasure.’ Let me explain. How do you measure the value of something you cherish? Is it not by the depth of pleasure you get from it? Is it not by the intensity and quality of your delight in what it is? Is it not by how excited and wrapped you are in all its various characteristics? So your satisfaction in what the treasure is and does for you, is the gauge by which its worth and value are revealed. Hence, your pleasure is the measure of the treasure.

To modify a phrase by John Piper: God is glorified most in you and by you, when your pleasure in Him is at its maximum and highest. Let me illustrate what I mean. Over the years God has taken me other parts of the world in which I had to be away from my family for many weeks at a time. When my two daughters were younger they missed me. Upon my return home, they would come to the airport to greet me and as soon as I came through the doors they would drop everything and run madly to me to greet me. All they could think about was running to their dad who alone at that moment could satisfy the longings of their heart. How do you suppose I reacted to such treatment? I was honoured by their need of me. They treasured who I am, the measure of which was the degree of pleasure they found in my presence. I was delighted and honoured as a father when they found in me and in me alone, the fulfilment of their heart’s desire. At that moment, no one else in the world could do for them what I could do. As they ran to me, hoping to be embraced and kissed and loved, I didn’t say: “How selfish and evil of you to be so consumed with being happy to see and be with me. You’re only thinking about you, how could you treat me this way?” On the contrary, I was honoured – if I may say so, glorified by their need of me. They were telling me in those moments that I was more important to them than anything else. Their enjoyment of me honoured, magnified, and drew attention to me.

God wants us to find our greatest pleasure in Him, to treasure Him above all else. Seek Him first and you will get everything else thrown in. Seek everything else and you will miss the lot.

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