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A quest for happiness

BY PASTOR BRANDON YOUNG
It seems our world is on a quest for happiness, but looking in all the wrong places. What is happiness? Happiness is an emotional state characterized by feelings of joy, satisfaction, contentment, and fulfillment. While happiness has many different definitions, it is often described as involving positive emotions and life satisfaction. Happiness is generally linked to experiencing more positive feelings than negative. Happiness is difficult to define completely because it’s not something you can touch. It is something that is totally subjective. Unfortunately, because happiness so often seems to be elusive, people often try to find it in all the wrong places. Many times they fall for an artificial happiness that they create with behaviors that give temporary pleasure. King Solomon went on a quest to find happiness, and we can learn so much from his findings.
Ecclesiastes 2:1-11 says, “I said in mine heart, Go to now, I will prove thee with mirth, therefore enjoy pleasure: and, behold, this also is vanity. I said of laughter, It is mad: and of mirth, What doeth it? I sought in mine heart to give myself unto wine, yet acquainting mine heart with wisdom; and to lay hold on folly, till I might see what was that good for the sons of men, which they should do under the heaven all the days of their life. I made me great works; I builded me houses; I planted me vineyards: 5 I made me gardens and orchards, and I planted trees in them of all kind of fruits: I made me pools of water, to water therewith the wood that bringeth forth trees: I got me servants and maidens, and had servants born in my house; also I had great possessions of great and small cattle above all that were in Jerusalem before me: I gathered me also silver and gold, and the peculiar treasure of kings and of the provinces: I gat me men singers and women singers, and the delights of the sons of men, as musical instruments, and that of all sorts. So I was great, and increased more than all that were before me in Jerusalem: also my wisdom remained with me. And whatsoever mine eyes desired I kept not from them, I withheld not my heart from any joy; for my heart rejoiced in all my labour: and this was my portion of all my labour. Then I looked on all the works that my hands had wrought, and on the labour that I had laboured to do: and, behold, all was vanity and vexation of spirit, and there was no profit under the sun.”
Solomon had everything anyone could ever want, but he called it all worthless. It did not bring true happiness. David Legge said, “Solomon went into every sin that you could possibly imagine. Solomon was a brilliant administrator, he was an able politician, he was a shrewd military commander and leader, he was a knowledgeable naturalist, he was a prolific lyricist — he wrote over 1,000 songs and 3,000 proverbs. He was the wealthiest king that almost ever lived, he had 1,400 chariots, he had 12,000 horses, and his annual income was 23 metric tons of gold — per year! He had 700 wives and 300 concubines.” We live in a world that believes that money, sex, entertainment, and loads of stuff can bring authentic happiness, but according to one of the wisest men who has ever lived that is not the truth at all! Solomon proved that hypothesis to be completely false! So, what does bring real happiness?
Two things came out of psychologist Ed Diener’s (born 1946) research over the last 20 years. One, religious faith plays an important role in a person’s happiness. Secondly, strong social connections, friends and family, play a very key role in a person’s happiness. That is exactly what Jesus was getting across to us when he stated the two greatest commandments. Loving God completely and loving others will produce real happiness, joy, peace, satisfaction, and contentment. Happiness is not found in yourself. Jesus himself said that if you want to find happiness you have to lose your life to find it. In other words, surrender your life to God and in that act of surrender true joy can begin to well up inside of you. Truly, happiness itself isn’t found in seeking it. Happiness is found in seeking God. If you just define happiness as pleasure, then I don’t know if God is that concerned with happiness. If you are defining happiness as something much deeper such as God’s divine favor then God is very concerned with our happiness. Let’s look at the example that Jesus gives at the end of the last supper. John 13:13-17, “Ye call me Master and Lord: and ye say well; for so I am. If I then, your Lord and Master, have washed your feet; ye also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have given you an example, that ye should do as I have done to you. Verily, verily, I say unto you, The servant is not greater than his lord; neither he that is sent greater than he that sent him. If ye know these things, happy are ye if ye do them. After the Passover, Jesus begins to wash the feet of the disciples, and he said that he gave us an example to do the same. He goes on to say that those who know these things and do them are happy. Is it not amazing that washing someone’s feet can bring actual happiness? Being a servant to others and giving to others creates a genuine happiness that money, sex, drugs, entertainment, and worldly pleasures can never bring! There is a Chinese saying that goes: “If you want happiness for an hour, take a nap. If you want happiness for a day, go fishing. If you want happiness for a year, inherit a fortune. If you want happiness for a lifetime, help somebody.” For centuries, the greatest thinkers have suggested the same thing: Happiness is found in helping others! If we invest in the lives of others, we can truly end our quest for happiness!
(Brandon Young is pastor of Harmony Free Will Baptist Church, Hampton.)