At the age of 30, comedian Dave Chappelle appeared to be living the dream with a television show that earned him millions. But he literally walked away during the third season’s production and went to South Africa. Later, commenting on his decision to leave, he said, “The higher up I went, the less happy I was.”
People look for happiness in a lot of different places. Some might think, If only I were good-looking, I know then I would be happy. But that can’t be true when we look at so many good-looking people who are disillusioned. I read about two supermodels, one a man and one a woman, who were at the top of their profession. Yet ironically, in different parts of the world, they both committed suicide on the same day because they felt as though they just couldn’t go on.
Others might think, If I had more possessions, then I would be happy. A Time magazine article, “Money: The Real Truth About Money,” stated that clinical depression is three to 10 times more common today than it was two generations ago. The article concluded that having more money leads to depression. The Bible has already told us that: “Just as Death and Destruction are never satisfied, so human desire is never satisfied” (Proverbs 27:20 NLT).
One of the wealthiest men who ever lived, King Solomon, came to this conclusion, saying, “Everything is wearisome beyond description. No matter how much we see, we are never satisfied. No matter how much we hear, we are not content” (Ecclesiastes 1:8).
For example, we always want the latest technology. A long time ago, we had little TV sets with rabbit ears and three channels to choose from. I am old enough to remember when color television arrived. Then along came these new devices with cutting-edge technology: rear projection. Then there was this amazing device called a VCR that actually allowed you to record programs. Then flat-panel and plasma screens came along, and they kept getting bigger and bigger and cheaper and cheaper. I read recently that the largest available flat-panel today is 154 inches. (Of course, you have to sit three blocks away to watch it.) The eye never sees enough. The ear never hears enough.
Some think relationships will bring personal happiness. But people will let you down. Your parents will let you down. Your children will let you down. Your husband or your wife will let you down. Your boyfriend or girlfriend will let you down. They will all disappoint.
Some might think that pursuing pleasure might bring personal happiness. But that is one way not to be happy. The Bible even says the one who lives for pleasure “is dead even while she lives” (1 Timothy 5:6 NIV). Living for pleasure is one of the most displeasing things a person can do. In fact, it has been said that the best cure for hedonism is an attempt to practice it.
The Bible tells a story about a rich young guy who had everything he could want, but he came to Jesus looking for answers. One of the biblical accounts describes this man as a rich young ruler. A ruler in those days had to be at least 30. This man was probably in his early 30s and came cruising up to Jesus in his luxury chariot, looking very cool in his expensive robes. But there was something missing in his life. Jesus suggested that he try keeping the commandments.
The young ruler wanted to know which ones. So Jesus gave him a few: “‘You must not murder. You must not commit adultery. You must not steal. You must not testify falsely. Honor your father and mother. Love your neighbor as yourself’” (Matthew 19:19–20 NLT).
The young guy said, “I’ve obeyed all these commandments. What else must I do?”
As soon as he said that, Jesus looked at him and loved him. I find that amazing. It would have made more sense if the Bible told us that Jesus looked at him and said, “What is wrong with you?” But Jesus didn’t do that. He loved the guy.
Do you know what that says to me? It tells me that even when we are sinful, God loves us. Do you know that God loves you? No matter what you have done, God loves you. It is true. The most well-known verse in the Bible, John 3:16, says, “For God loved the world so much that he gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.”
So why did Jesus tell this man to follow the commandments? He told him about the commandments to help him understand that he could not keep the commandments. The commandments tell us what is wrong in our lives. They tell us what things can separate us from God. It’s like taking a look in the mirror and not liking what you see.
When you get up in the morning, it is a little shocking to look in the mirror, isn’t it? The mirror reveals the truth. That is what the commandments do as well. Every one of us has broken one of God’s commandments. (Some of us have broken many of them.) All of us have sinned. That is why Jesus told this young man to keep the commandments – so he would realize that he needed help.
So when he said that he had kept all the commandments and wanted to know what else he should do, Jesus told him, “If you want to be perfect, go, sell what you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me” (Matthew 19:21).
Jesus never said that to anyone else, so why did he say that to this man? Because this man was possessed by his possessions. For him, his god was his stuff. He was hung up on his things, and Jesus wanted to expose the truth.
The answers Jesus gave to this man are the same answers he gives us today. Everyone bows at some altar. Some worship themselves. Some worship things. Some worship pleasure. Some worship accomplishments. Everyone has a god – even atheists.
So how do you find personal happiness? Answer: not by seeking it, but by seeking him. When you put God first in your life and put your faith in Jesus Christ, you will find the elusive happiness you have been searching for. What we are looking for, deep down inside, is a relationship with God. We were created to know him.