Greg Laurie is the author of 12 inspirational books, which are available online.
Having just celebrated the Fourth of July here in America, we have so much to be thankful for!
In my last column, I mentioned the statement from our Declaration of Independence that states, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal. That they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”
From the day we are born, we are on this search for happiness, this quest. What you were specifically after wasn’t completely clear, but you knew you wanted your life to have some kind of purpose. You wanted to know the meaning of life itself. And you wanted to be happy.
In 2005, Time did a cover story entitled, “The Science of Happiness.” What makes us happy? Said Time: “Take wealth, for instance, and all the delightful things money can by. Research has shown that once your basic needs are met, additional income does little to raise your sense of satisfaction. A good education? Sorry, Mom and Dad, neither education nor, for that matter, a high IQ paves the way to happiness. Youth? No again. In fact, older people are more consistently satisfied with their lives then the young.”
In an article from the same issue, “The Real Truth About Money,” the author wrote, “If you made a graph of American life since the end of World War II, every line concerning money and the things money can buy would soar upward. But if you made a chart of American happiness since the end of World War II, the lines would be as flat as a marble tabletop. Clinical depression is 3 to 10 times as common today as two generations ago. Money jangles in our wallets and purses like never before, but we are basically no happier for it, and for many, more money leads to depression.”
So, if you don’t find it in wealth, youth or education, where do you find personal happiness?
Let me first tell you where you won’t find it. It will not come from this world. The fleeting happiness that this world offers comes and goes, depending on your circumstances. If things are going reasonably well, we are happy. If they are not, we are unhappy.
Money can buy us some things, but not the most important things. Money can buy you a bed, but not sleep. Books, but not brains. A house, but not a home. Medicine, but not health. Amusement, but not happiness. To quote Saint Paul, John, George and Ringo, “Money can’t buy you love.”
I heard about a couple that was celebrating the husband’s 65th birthday and also their 35th wedding anniversary. Suddenly, a genie appeared and offered each one wish. The wife wished for a second honeymoon on a beautiful South Seas island. Poof, there they were, together on this incredible island, surrounded by beauty. But the husband had not been granted his wish yet. So he looked at his aging wife for a moment, and turned to the genie and said, “I wish I had a wife who was 30 years younger than me!” Poof! He was 95 years old! So be careful what you wish for.
So, where do we find the meaning, the purpose we all crave in life? How can we be truly happy people?
In the Time articles and other stories about the search for happiness, one fact stood out. Scandinavians were the happiest people on earth, with Americans a close second.
Faith, family and friends were all factors that contributed to happiness, according to Time: “Love, friendship, family … the belief that your life has purpose. These are the essentials of human fulfillment, and they can’t be purchased with cash.”
Most of us can’t do much about the Scandinavian part, but “the belief that your life has purpose” – that we can work with.
Does your life have purpose? According to the Bible, if we seek to know God and discover His plan for our life, we will find the happiness that has eluded us for so long. Not from seeking “it,” but from seeking Him!
C.S. Lewis wrote, “God designed the human machine to run on Himself. He Himself is the fuel our spirits were designed to burn, or the food our spirits were designed to feed on. There is no other. That is why it is just no good asking God to make us happy in our own way without bothering about religion. God cannot give us a happiness and peace apart from Himself, because it is not there. There is no such thing.”
The first Psalm speaks of how to live a happy life: “Happy is the man who walks and lives not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor stands in the path where sinners walk, nor sits down where the scornful gather.” (Psalm 1:1, Amplified)
So to be happy, there are certain things I should and should not do, because there are certain activities that will stop happiness, that are poisonous, destructive and counterproductive.
It might be easier if there were warning labels on certain relationships or activities so we might steer clear of them. And why not? There are warning labels on practically everything already. Some of them are quite absurd.
Here is a list of some the more ridiculous ones out there today:
- A label on a baby stroller warns: “Remove child before folding.” (You have to remind a person of this? Apparently so, because these labels are usually there because someone somewhere did what the label warns against.)
- A flushable toilet brush warns: “Do not use for personal hygiene.” (Now this is downright scary. Don’t tell me that someone confused his toothbrush with his toilet brush.)
- The label on a bottle of drain cleaner warns: “If you do not understand, or cannot read, all directions, cautions and warnings, do not use this product.” (If you can’t read, how would you be able to heed this warning?)
- A cartridge for a laser printer warns, “Do not eat toner.” (Someone actually thought toner was a part of a basic food group?)
- A 13-inch wheel on a wheelbarrow warns: “Not intended for highway use.” (Can you imagine some guy trying to merge with traffic in his wheelbarrow?)
- A can of self-defense pepper spray warns users: “May irritate eyes.” (I was kind of hoping for that, actually.)
- A household iron warns users: “Never iron clothes while they are being worn.” (Someone somewhere is in great pain right now after giving this one a try.)
God gives us warning labels as well, for our own good, to keep us from harming ourselves. So He tells us not to “walk and live in the counsel of the ungodly.”
But then happiness is also found in what we do. Right after telling us what happy people don’t do, Psalm 1 goes on to say, “But his delight is in the law of the LORD, and in His law he meditates day and night. He shall be like a tree, planted by the rivers of water, that brings forth its fruit in its season, whose leaf also shall not wither; and whatever he does shall prosper.” (Psalm 1:2 NKJV)
So we discover that real and lasting happiness comes from the study of and obedience to the Bible. Did you know that? Do you have a Bible? When is the last time you opened it up and saw what God has to say to you through it?
Reading the Bible should not be a mere duty, but the delight of the person who wants to know God. President Abraham Lincoln once said of the Bible, “All the good Savior gave to the World was communicated through this Book. But for this Book we could not know right from wrong. All the things most desirable for man’s welfare, here and hereafter, are to be found in it.”
Honest Abe was right. And if you want to find that happiness you are pursuing, then you must open up, read and, most importantly, do what the Bible tells you. It’s like the user’s manual of life that we have all been searching for.
Every word of the Bible has been given to us by God Himself to help us know what is right and wrong.
The Apostle Paul wrote, “All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It straightens us out and teaches us to do what is right. It is God’s way of preparing us in every way, fully equipped for every good thing God wants us to do.” (2 Timothy 3:16-17 NLT)
Notice again that the happy man in Psalm 1 “delights in the law (or Word) of the Lord.” So you are both reactive and proactive. You are resisting what is wrong and embracing what is right. It’s a combination of the two.
If you do this, the Bible says you will find happiness.