The Longing for Happiness
The longing for happiness is etched indelibly in every human heart. We seek for happiness, we ache for happiness and we will do almost anything to secure happiness. Our problem is, however, that most people neither know what happiness is, nor where they can find it. Sin has blinded our minds, corrupted our hearts and left us ‘eyeless seekers’. Herman Bavinck, the great Dutch theologian, put it memorably:
All men are really seeking after God . . . but they do not all seek Him in the right way, nor at the right place. They seek Him down below, and He is up above. They seek Him on the earth, and He is in heaven. They seek Him afar, and He is nearby. They seek Him in money, in property, in fame, in power, and in passion; and He is to be found in the high and holy places, and with him that is of a contrite and humble spirit (Isa. 57:15) . . . They seek Him and at the same time they flee Him . . . In this, as Pascal so profoundly pointed out, consists the greatness and miserableness of man. He longs for truth and is false by nature. He yearns for rest and throws himself from one diversion upon another. He pants for a permanent and eternal bliss and seizes on the pleasures of the moment. He seeks for God and loses himself in the creature.
What a picture of the world we live in – always searching, but never finding. Why is this? In all of the searching after happiness there is a fundamental deception. The assumption is that ‘science’ can explain this longing and fulfil this longing. The evolutionary hypothesis, so vigorously promoted by crusading atheists like Richard Dawkins, maintains that we are all chance amalgams of sub-atomic particles, mere carbon units that have no meaning, and no ultimate significance. The longing after happiness is thus reduced to a mere biological impulse, which can be satisfied by other biological impulses. The horizon of happiness is ‘under the sun’ and the pursuit of happiness ‘under the sun’ becomes the uncritically accepted goal of most men and women.
There is, however, a fundamental flaw in this analysis: science cannot explain the nature and the contradiction in men and women. We know we are more than mere carbon units. The Bible tells us what that ‘more’ is, but we all know there is more to us than meets the eye. Satan seeks tirelessly to ‘blind the minds of unbelievers’ (2 Cor. 4:4) and our guilty, rebel consciences ‘suppress the truth’ we know to be true (Rom. 1:18). The truth that science cannot reckon with and can know nothing of is the truth of our divine origin and our profound fall. The deepest truth about us all is that God has set eternity in our hearts; he has made us in his own image and even in our fallenness the faint echoes of these truths resonate in the dark recesses of our souls. To quote Bavinck again, ‘Man is an enigma whose solution can be found only in God.’
The happiness we all long for is not found in anything ‘under the sun’; it is found in fellowship with him who made the sun! The first Psalm puts it simply and yet profoundly:
Blessed (truly happy) is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked or stand in the way of sinners or sit in the seat of mockers. But his delight is in the law of the Lord and on his law he meditates day and night. He is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither. Whatever he does prospers.
Happiness, soul-fulfilling, heart-engaging happiness, is found in the friendship of the ‘happy God’ (as the Bible calls him) and in feeding upon his Word. This explains the mission of God’s Son – ‘I have come that you might have life and life in all its fulness.’ The happiness we all ache for is an eternal happiness. It could hardly be otherwise when God has set eternity in our hearts. So, fellow Christian, ‘Seek the things which are above, where Christ is.’ Nothing and no-one under the sun can give you what your heart longs for. Happiness is having the happy God filling your heart with his glorious presence.
Ian Hamilton is Pastor of the Cambridge Presbyterian Church now worshipping God on Sunday mornings in All Saints’ Church, Jesus Lane, Cambridge and in the Lutheran Church, Huntingdon Road, on Sunday evenings.
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