The preamble to the Declaration of Independence begins with this: “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 them are Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness.” Unalienable rights are “rights” that cannot be taken away. They are given to us by our Creator. As I understand it, all Life is sacred and comes from our Creator, and Liberty includes the freedom to be who we are and to become all that God wants us to be. But what is this Pursuit of Happiness all about? It can often be quite elusive!
Happiness is something that we all long for, yet sometimes when we think we’ve found it, it slips away from us… all too easily. In the Bible the word for happiness is related to the term “blessed.” For example, in Psalm 84 we find that there are three verses which describe what the happy (or blessed) person is like. But note first, however, how the psalm begins:
“How lovely (beautiful) is your dwelling place, O Lord Almighty! My soul yearns, even faints, for the courts of the Lord; my heart and my flesh cry out for the living God.” There is a deep longing within the heart and soul of each human being that longs for and cries out for the living God. Here’s what Augustine, a church father from the fourth century, said, “You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our heart is restless until it finds its rest in you.” Novelist Suzanne Anderson describes that restless longing this way: “That longing lives within us until we find communion with God and experience his love. It is only in God that our restless hearts can rest. Otherwise, we spend our days trying to silence our longing with food and drink and money and sex and power. None of it works.”
Below are those three verses on finding happiness:
“Blessed are those who dwell in your house (in your presence). They are ever praising you,” (Psalm 84:4). I believe that true happiness and blessing from God begins when we come to know God through faith in Christ. Then, as we learn to live our lives in Him, according to his ways, (dwelling in his presence, as it were), we will find rest for our souls.
Psalm 84:5 gives us more insight: “Blessed (truly happy) are those whose strength is in you, who have set their hearts on pilgrimage (seeking Him).” When we spend our lives striving and laboring in our own strength, trying to accomplish all of our own goals, we find that we’re anything but happy. Rather, we’ll be stressed, overwhelmed and exhausted. But when we find our strength in God, and seek his help, we will find fulfillment. As the apostle Paul said, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”
Psalm 84:12 sums up our pursuit of happiness. It simply says, “O Lord Almighty, blessed is the person who trusts in you.” Happiness and blessing from God are found simply in trusting Him, not anything else. As Proverbs 3:5-6 reminds us, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will direct your paths.” He will guide you. He will be with you. He will fulfill the deepest longings of your heart. He will bring you true joy. He will, in fact, bring happiness to your life. Happiness found, in Him!
Jim Newman is pastor of the First Presbyterian Church in Exeter. He may be reached by calling 559-592-2367 or by emailing [email protected]. Prays Together is a rotating faith-based commentary and advice column among the pastors of the First Presbyterian Church of Exeter, Church of Christ of Exeter, Nazarene Church of Exeter, Church of God of Exeter, the New Life Assembly of God and Rocky Hill Community Church as well as the Lemon Cove Presbyterian Church.
This column is not a news article but the opinion of the writer and does not reflect the views of The Sun-Gazette newspaper.