Happiness is a difficult thing to strive for. When happiness is sought as an end in itself, satisfaction is never found. Happiness is self-centered and has an insatiable appetite (Ecclesiastes 1:8). It is fleeting and fickle. Just when you settle into a smile because your iPod arrived, you find out it isn’t the latest version anymore. And hey, wouldn’t that new one be nicer? Never being satisfied is part of the human condition and that is why pursuing happiness is like chasing after the wind. You’ll never be happy for long. We always need the bigger and better this or that to keep us smiling.
There are plenty of things that can distract us from our unhappiness though. We can be entertained and amused around the clock. We can divert our attention from the real things in life and give our brains bubble gum to chew on. Everyone knows that bubble gum loses its flavor after a short while, so we’ll be sure to change the channel every now and then. This is not unlike putting a mobile above a baby’s crib to distract him from his gassy discomfort. The French philosopher Blaise Pascal notes, "Being unable to cure death, wretchedness and ignorance, men have decided, in order to be happy, not to think about such things."
We can busy ourselves up so that we don’t have time to feel unhappy. Not that there is anything wrong with productivity, but we must realize that the good feeling we get when a project is finished is also only temporary.
Jesus never promises happiness, and I think on this point many Christians are confused.
The real answer to finding happiness is to think outside of yourself and to serve others. We are, at our core, relational beings. This is why solitary confinement is thought as one of the worst possible scenarios we could find ourselves in. When we stop thinking about our own wants and desires and start helping others with their needs, amazing things happen.
By serving others we:
1. Are forced to stop focusing on ourselves.
2. Become thankful because we realize how much we have.
3. Can experience love, the true love of giving without receiving.
4. Develop a deep connection to the human condition.
Disclosure: Serving others is at the core of what I believe.
Christianity at its core can be summed up: Love God, Love Others (a.k.a. serve and take care of others).
This article claims Christians are happier. And yet I’m not even sure that the pursuit of happiness, in and of itself, is a wise decision. Jesus will join us in our suffering, not always take us out of it.