“Happiness can never be found directly… happiness is always and only a by-product of seeking something else more than happiness… if you seek righteousness more than happiness, you’ll get both. If you seek happiness more than righteousness, you’ll get neither… the person who is happy is the one who has stopped trying to be so happy.” – Tim Keller, from a sermon called “The Search for Happiness.”
There is much wisdom in these words. What Keller is saying in this sermon is that true and lasting happiness can only be found in the righteousness of the law of God. He uses Psalm 1 as the text, which says that the one who delights in the law of the Lord is blessed. The question emphasized in Keller’s sermon is, “Are you fundamentally and consistently happy?”
My response is, no I am not. The problem I come up against time and time again is that my happiness depends far too much on the temporary and not enough on the eternal. When we depend on those things which will fail us, the happiness we feel as a result of those things will also fail. If I work hard to have a happy marriage or to enjoy my work, my happiness depends on the conditions of those relationships and situations.
Real happiness, that which the Bible points to and talks about, is not subject to the seasons of our lives. Just like a tree that is planted by a stream of water is fed by its roots, so must our lives be fed not by an external source, but from our roots. The circumstances may change, but if we are rooted in Christ who never fails, the source of our joy and happiness will always be there. Before Christ, we were like a tree not planted by a stream of water. Once we have invited Christ into our lives, we are like a tree that has been transplanted next to a never-ending source of water.
So, in order to find happiness, we must not do all we can to control our circumstances in order to bring happiness, but we must treasure the One who is the source of fundamental joy. When we make happiness our highest priority, we will get nothing. But, when we make Christ our highest priority, happiness will spring forth from that relationship.
Here’s a final thought. If we come to God to find happiness, we don’t come to God, we come to an idol with expectation that it will serve us. We must come to God on the basis that God owes us nothing. The worst part about this is that we are too selfish to do this. The best part is that God is gracious enough to change our hearts, if we are willing to admit that we need to be changed.