We all want to be happy.
Let’s put it this way, nobody spends their entire life trying to be as miserable as possible. No one ever says, “One day, I will finally be miserable! I just can’t stand to be happy anymore.”
The truth is: we all want to be happy. And we all dedicate our lives to gain happiness. The desire to be happy drives most of the decisions we make everyday. Big decisions like what you want to be when you grow up, or what kind of person do I want to marry, or do I want to get married at all, or am I going to college, or which college will I go to, etc. Small decisions like what am I going to wear today, or will I hit the snooze just one… more… time, or spicy chicken biscuit or chicken burrito for breakfast (spoiler alert, the answer is both), do I go see the Hobbit or Anchorman 2, etc.
Some of these are BIG, life altering decisions, and sure, some of them have other factors that weigh into that decision, but ultimately, we want that decision to make us happy. Well, I’d like to share with you a few of the things that make me happy (in no particular order)…
Sports (although not recently).
On a more serious note, my job makes me happy. I love being a pastor. Being a husband makes me happy. I love my wife. Being a dad makes me happy. I love my son. And sometimes I feel that if this is all I have in life, I’ll be a pretty happy person.
But, the happiness that comes from a cup of coffee only lasts so long. You can only eat so many burritos before they begin to make you unhappy. You can be a Cowboys fan and totally forget what it’s like to be happy.
Being a pastor makes me happy, but sometimes, it can make me sad. Pastors get to be a part of some of the most beautiful moments in people’s lives, but we are also a part of some of the most painful moments, too. Also, what happens if one day, for whatever reason, I can no longer be a pastor? Where does my happiness come from then?
What happens if, God forbid, something terrible happens and I lose my wife, or my son? Where does happiness come from then?
You see, the problem with happiness alone is what happens when the thing that makes you happy is gone? What happens when you don’t get in to the college that you have dreamt of all your life? What happens when the one you are in love with decides that they aren’t in love with you? What happens when you lose your best friend, your parents get divorced, you are forced to move away from the only life you’ve known, or you don’t get that promotion you deserved? Where does happiness come from?
Happiness is a good thing, but the problem with happiness is that it is only an emotion. We all want to be happy, but we all know that sadness still exists.
In the gospel of John, Jesus makes a declaration of intent by saying, “I have come that you may have life, and have it to the fullest.”
This says that Jesus isn’t just interested in where you end up when you die, but that he is very interested in how you live! And he wants you to have the FULLEST life possible.
But what is a FULL life?
For this, let me take you back to the beginning of the Bible — in the Garden of Eden. There, we find Adam and Eve a life close to God, close to each other, and full of purpose. Both Adam and Eve have a full life. Sure they may have a tough day from time to time, but the knowledge that they have an eternal God as their companion and are living according to his will brings peace during that chaos. But when they decided to put their own desires above God’s, a void is created.
You see, God hooked them up! They had a great life living in this lavish garden, walking around naked all the time, naming animals without a care in the world, and all God said is, don’t eat from this tree. Because if you do, you will have the knowledge of things that will tear you away from me and the life I have for you. And for the longest time, they obeyed. They were content. They were happy!
But then, something slithers along and convinces them that God is holding out on them. That they don’t need God anymore. They if they eat from THAT tree, they’ll know how to go out and take happiness for themselves.
And that sounded pretty good. After all, I can’t believe God would hold out on us like that! How dare he give us all this wonderful stuff but protect us from the things that could hurt us most!? “Come on Adam, we don’t need him anymore. Let’s go get happiness ourselves.”
A void was created. A separation. A once full life was no longer filled.
There was a gap,
In that moment, Adam and Eve choose themselves over God, and in the process, lost the very thing they hoped to gain.
And ever since then, humanity has chosen power, money, reputation, sex, stuff, acclaim, awards, accomplishments, titles and pride over God. We have been putting our own wants and desires over God’s. We fill our lives with things in hopes that it will make us happy — that it will FILL the void we created so long ago. But we keep finding out again and again that nothing is quite big enough to fulfill us.
Comedian George Carlin reminds us that “happiness is a soul thing.”
“Trying to satisfy it with the accumulation of things is like trying to satisfy hunger by tapping sandwiches all over your body.”
Though his particular brand of comedy may be vulgar, his insight into this particular subject is spot on.
Nothing can reach to the core of our being, the depths of who we are like our Creator God can. Nothing is big enough to fill the void in our hearts, except God. God is Big Enough, and He’s been here all along. Calling for us to return to him. Sending his son to earth to say, “I’m here! And, I’ve come to give you life, and not just life, but the fullest life! Follow me. I know the way!”
But we continue to chase happiness elsewhere. Even those of us that have chosen to follow Christ try to find happiness on our own, apart from him.
Pastor David Alexander said it this way in a sermon a couple weeks ago:
“The dumb thing that smart Christians do all the time is waste their life searching for something they’ve had the whole time.”
So how do I be happy?
Well, to answer that, we must first understand this:
God likes for us to be happy, but longs for us to be full. And fullness comes through a pursuit of God.
What does that mean? Well it means that to pursue God is to follow Jesus and his call. To do so, you may need to reconsider some of your priorities. What is it that you are investing you life into that will not bring the long-term happiness, the fullness of life that Jesus promises? It means that you may have to sacrifice something that will bring temporary happiness in order to experience the long term happiness, the fullness that Jesus talks about. It means trying things that may not sound fun at the time, but end up surprising the crap out of you with how great they are.
If your goal is a full life, then those happy moments will be much happier! You’ll experience the joy of the Lord and rejoice with him in his faithfulness. And, when those rough times come, the full life equips you to be able to survive and thrive through them.
I can think of no better example in my life my recent experience with adoption.
A while back, my wife Holly and I felt a tug on our lives. We could hear God calling us in a very new, very exciting and very scary direction. He had called us to adopt. Let me tell you, as exciting as the idea was, there were a lot of obstacles. It was going to be very expensive. We were going to have to do some fundraising (which I hate doing) and we were going to have to radically change our family’s budget in order to pay for this without going into debt. This meant that we had to cut our TV down to the very minimum (no ESPN, ahhhhh!), we couldn’t go out to eat as much, we had to sell some our stuff, we had to decline some invitations from friends to go hang out, and more. I can tell you, that wasn’t fun. It didn’t make me happy at the time to do those things. But guess what, because we commited to following God’s call, because we believed that living in Jesus brings a fullness beyond our momentary happiness, we obeyed.
And guess what? We have a son from Uganda.
And the happiness that that boy brings to my life is infinitely more than any amount of watching ESPN, Chipotle, or nights out with friends. Though it didn’t sound like fun at the time, the reward was great!
Now, God might not be calling you to adopt a kid, but I know that God has something big in store for you.
I’m here to tell you that the happy life — the truly happy life — begins with the pursuit of God.
God is the author of life. He was there when it was created. And, he was there when the happiest of life, the fullest life was thrown away. He wants to help us get it back.