As humans, we spend the better part of our lives seeking happiness. We search for it in pretty much all that we do; we seek it in relationships, jobs, social media, Netflix, pets, games, sports, shopping and more. Notable theologian John Piper has even coined the phrase “Christian Hedonism,” explaining that even Christians are motivated to pursue their own happiness. It might not be an overstatement to say that humans are happiness junkies.
While many of the temporary things listed above can bring us happiness, it is rarely lasting, and will never satisfy. Before long, we are done and ready for something else, something new. I am reminded of children who beg and beg for a particular toy, convincing even themselves that it will bring long lasting joy. Yet, we all know it doesn’t take long for the newness to wear off and something else to catch their eye.
In scripture, we find that happiness is often expressed in the word “blessed”. You are likely familiar with beatitudes, found in Jesus’ famous Sermon on the Mount. Here we find a series of verses beginning with the phrase, “Blessed are…” and giving us understanding into true godly happiness. In verse 6, we find something particularly helpful for those that long for sustaining happiness, “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they are satisfied.”
Psalm 32 also offers us some additional insight. In this Psalm, King David, who was at the height of his reign, describes his descent to despair, after his infamous sin with Bathsheba, and how he found happiness again. He begins, “Blessed is the one whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered. Blessed is the man against whom the LORD counts no iniquity…” (Verses 1-2).While often used interchangeably, transgression, sin, and iniquity all have slightly different meanings. Sin is used here to best communicate missing the mark, transgression means to knowingly disobeying, and iniquity suggests a premeditated act without repentance. David is guilty of all of these and it is tearing him apart. He is slowly drowning in the sorrow of his unconfessed sin. He describes, “For when I kept silent, my bones wasted away through groaning…” and his “strength was dried up.” (Verses 3-4).
As David discovered, we will only find the satisfying happiness we long for when our transgressions are confessed and forgiven, when our sins our covered by the blood of Christ, and when our iniquities are no longer counted against us – as they have been nailed the cross. Only in the pursuit and hunger of righteousness (found solely in Jesus) will we come to place where contentment, joy, and happiness are perpetuated for all eternity.
“Many are the sorrows of the wicked, but the steadfast love surrounds the one who trusts in the LORD. Be glad in the LORD, and rejoice, O righteous, and shout for joy, all you upright in heart” (Pslam 32:10-11)