Does the Bible Encourage the Pursuit of Happiness? (Y1.T2.D4)
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The Preamble to the United States Declaration of Independence 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.
However, what was “self-evident” to the founding fathers, wasn’t wholly biblical. God definitely shows no partiality between humans (Romans 2:11), but he did not endow all people with the unalienable right to pursue happiness. He couldn’t because one man’s pursuit of happiness has the ability to infringe on the happiness of another.
The Bible has one solid message about what we should pursue, and that is God alone (Matthew 6:33).
This doesn't mean he won't provide us happiness. On the contrary, Psalm 37:4 confirms that if we delight ourselves in the Lord, "he will give [us] the desires of [our] heart[s]." But he also allows sorrow and trouble into our lives as well (John 16:33).
God knew before he even created the world what medical researchers have only recently discovered. Consider the January 2020 article in Medical News Today titled “The surprising link between depression and the pursuit of happiness”:
Interestingly, there is a theory that this negative relationship only occurs in the Western world — particularly in the United States.
However, one 2015 study in the Journal of Experimental Psychology found a positive association between happiness value and well-being among Russian and East Asian populations.
One reason for this cultural discrepancy could be that Western cultures have a habit of basing their happiness levels on individual achievements, rather than universal goals.
So while you can find several articles telling you God wants you to pursue happiness, they tend to focus on pursuing joy. This really isn’t the same thing; remember, James 1:2–3 says we should “Count it all joy . . . when you fall into various temptations, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance.”
Of course, we should not look for reasons to feel bad; instead, we should recognize true contentment comes from our relationship with God. (Philippians 4:11–13)
As you read today’s passages, notice how Jesus “sighed deeply in his spirit” when people kept asking him for a sign (Mark 8:11). When alone with his disciples he warned them to not be like that, and when they misunderstood what he was saying, he reminded them how God provided more than enough when he fed the multitudes.
The Almighty does more than enough for us each day that we don't need to pursue happiness; it's a natural byproduct of our relationship with him.
Let's Pursue God
1 In those days, when there was a very great multitude, and they had nothing to eat, (Mark 8:1a)
11 The Pharisees came out and began to question him, seeking from him a sign from heaven, and testing him. 12 He sighed deeply in his spirit, and said, “Why does this generation seek a sign? Most certainly I tell you, no sign will be given to this generation.” (Mark 8:11–12)
19b They told him, “Twelve.” (Mark 8:19b)
20b They told him, “Seven.” (Mark 8:20b)
11b But beware of the yeast of the Pharisees and Sadducees.”
12 Then they understood that he didn’t tell them to beware of the yeast of bread, but of the teaching of the Pharisees and Sadducees. (Matthew 16:11b–12)
22 He came to Bethsaida. They brought a blind man to him, and begged him to touch him. 23 He took hold of the blind man by the hand, and brought him out of the village. When he had spat on his eyes, and laid his hands on him, he asked him if he saw anything.
24 He looked up, and said, “I see men; for I see them like trees walking.”
25 Then again he laid his hands on his eyes. He looked intently, and was restored, and saw everyone clearly. 26 He sent him away to his house, saying, “Don’t enter into the village, nor tell anyone in the village.” (Mark 8:22–26)
Regardless of the circumstances I find myself in today, I'm thankful because this is Your will for me in Christ Jesus (1 Thessalonians 5:18). Help me rejoice in my suffering knowing it produces perseverance which proves my character, which leads to hope that never disappoints because Your love has been poured into me (Romans 5:3–5). In your presence is the fullness of joy, and in your right hand are pleasures forevermore (Psalm 16:11).
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