Obedience is the only road to true joy.
From the day we were born, we’ve been on a quest. We are on a search. Deep down inside, we all want to be happy. We all want to be fulfilled and to live lives with purpose. So where do we find happiness?
Research has shown that once our basic needs are met, additional income does little to raise our sense of satisfaction. So if money doesn’t make us happy, then what will?
According to the Bible, if you know God and discover his plan for your life, then you will find the happiness you’re searching for.
C.S. Lewis made this statement about happiness:
“God designed the human machine to run on himself. He himself is the fuel our spirits were designed to burn, or the food for our spirits were designed to feed on. … God cannot give us a happiness and peace apart from himself, because it is not there. There is no such thing.”
We won’t experience this from the fleeting happiness that ebbs and flows, that comes and goes depending on what our lives are like at the moment. That is not real happiness.
Actually, happiness is never something that we should seek directly, according to the Scriptures. It is always the result of seeking something else. Jesus said, “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be filled” (Matt. 5:6).
If we seek holiness, then we will find happiness, because we’re aligning our will with God’s will as we walk in harmony with him.
The Secret of Happiness
The New Testament Gospel of John includes a conversation that took place when some Greek men came looking for Jesus. I don’t know why these men sought out Jesus in particular, because they were from a pagan culture. They weren’t raised in the faith of the Jewish people who worshiped one God, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. But they had heard about this miracle-working prophet from Nazareth, and they were intrigued. They wanted to ask him a question.
John tells us:
“Now there were certain Greeks among those who came up to worship at the feast. Then they came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida of Galilee, and asked him, saying, ‘Sir, we wish to see Jesus.’” —John 12:20–21
Now, why would these Greek men come to Jesus in the first place? At this time historically, Greece was the center of human wisdom. Athens was where all the intellectuals gathered. People like Socrates and Plato were from Athens. It was the fountainhead of philosophy, the matrix of theology and the cradle of civilized society.
But it also was an open, free society, devoid of absolutes. People were encouraged to live as they pleased. Immorality was rampant. Marriages were crumbling. Justice was lacking. And these men thought there had to be more.
“Philip came and told Andrew, and in turn Andrew and Philip told Jesus. But Jesus answered them, saying, ‘The hour has come that the Son of Man should be glorified. Most assuredly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it produces much grain. He who loves his life will lose it, and he who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life.’” —John 12:22–25
If You Love Your Life …
The Bible never tells us whether these men ever succeeded in getting the appointment they longed for. But Jesus, in effect, gave them the answer to the question of their hearts and told them how to find the meaning of life, the secret of happiness.
Jesus was saying that if you love your life, you will lose it. If you live for yourself, you will never find yourself. On the other hand, to lose your life is to find it. It’s saying, “God, I give my life to you, and I want to live by your standards.”
Some of us, quite frankly, are afraid to do that. But never be afraid to commit an unknown future to a known God. God’s plans for us are better than our plans for ourselves.
You may not think that’s true, but I am telling you it is. Not only do I know this from what the Bible says, but I know it from personal experience. I can look back on my life and think of things I wanted desperately. But today I am so thankful that God did not say yes to me.
“Why Don’t You Choose for Me?”
When my son, Christopher—who is now in heaven—was a little boy, I liked to take him to toy stores. I would tell him, “Go ahead and pick out something for yourself.”
He would look at certain action figures, and meanwhile, I was checking out the much bigger, cooler toys. Then he would say, “Dad, I found this one. Can I get this?”
“Sure you can get that, Christopher. But how about this to go with it?” Then I would show him the bigger, cooler toy.
After a while, Christopher started getting wise when we went to the toy store. Instead of choosing something for himself, he’d say, “Dad, why don’t you choose for me?”
The same is true of life. God’s plans are better. And sometimes the things we think will make us happy actually will make us the most miserable.
God is not our servant. He is not our divine butler. So instead of trying to impose your will on him, it’s better to say, “God, why don’t you choose for me?”
Even better yet, say, “To the best of my ability, this is what I think would be right. But God, you have taught me to pray, ‘Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done.’”
That is what it means to “lose your life.” It is not living a miserable or restrictive life. It is finding your life by offering it to Jesus and saying, “I want your will more than my own.”
Are you afraid to do that?
The happy life the Bible speaks of is one in which you live in harmony with God. And if you’re living to please yourself, then you will lose yourself. However, if you will see yourself for what you really are—someone who is in need of God, and if you will commit your life to him, then you will find the purpose, meaning and, yes, the happiness you’ve been searching for.