What is happiness? I'm sure there is a perfectly good definition I could quote here, but can a definition of a word that carries so much emotional imagery really do us any good? I don't think so. Perhaps a better question is, what makes us happy? To that question, again, there is no finite answer. Each of us have our own idea of what makes us happy. To some, it's money. To some, success. To others, it's travel or family, a car, knowledge, or quality time spent with friends. Maybe it's memories of a simpler time in life, or the anticipation of something that is to come. Unfortunately, none of these things are sustainable long term. If money or things bring happiness, then we will always chase after the next raise. If it's a car, then as soon as we get the 'perfect' car, we start thinking about our next 'perfect' car as soon as we have to make the first repair. Memories fade. Family and friends aren't always guaranteed to be there. Success is temporary. Knowledge will leave us. It would seem that there is nothing in this world that can provide sustainable joy. It all has an expiration date. That's not to say that many of these things aren't important, just that they cannot make us truly happy. In fact, it seems like the more effort we put into obtaining the stuff that we think makes us happy, the harder it gets to find. There is always someone who makes more money, has more success, has more friends, creates better memories, has a nicer car, and so on. We're chasing ideas of happiness, not real happiness. So what's real happiness? Picture an ocean in a storm. No matter how bad it gets on the surface, when you go deep down, the water is always calm. Real happiness comes from deep within us. Real happiness comes when we invite Jesus to be our Lord. When we make the decision and put the action into building a relationship with him, and building our trust in him, then we find the happiness and contentment during the storms of life. It doesn't mean all your problems disappear. It doesn't mean your life is all of the sudden perfect and you are better than everyone else. In many cases, when you give your life over to Jesus, things are going to get harder. Jesus tells us,
John 16:33 (NLT) 'I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.'
When we lean into him. When we commit to getting to know him better. When we truly choose to serve our creator instead of our world, then we are strengthened in the knowledge that we serve a loving God who will provide for our needs. We serve a God who has defeated the world; who took on our sins, and payed the ultimate price so that we could be happy. In God we find a purpose for our lives. In seeking to know God more we find a new perspective on life. And, in serving God we are put in a position where he can use us to do the good works he has prepared for us to do. So,
James 1:2-4 (NLT) Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles of any kind come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing.
Needing nothing. That sounds like a good definition of happy to me. Come check us out at Radius Church next week when Blake discusses Thanksgiving.