Finding Happiness With God

The fourth Sunday of Lent is called “Laetare Sunday,” ‘laetare’ being one of the Latin words for joy.  If there is confusion about anything today, it is about joy, or as some use the word ‘happiness.’  “The pursuit of happiness” is part of the DNA of our American character, enshrined in our very Declaration of Independence.  But it begs the question: what is the happiness we should be pursuing?  Sadly, in my opinion, most people equate happiness with whatever makes THEM happy.  This is a dangerous way to live, because we know people are ‘happy’ doing all kinds of wrong things.  Our jails are filled with them.  If there are no objective standards for happiness, then it is a free-for-all, humanly and morally speaking.  Now, as Saint Thomas Aquinas said, there is within every soul a thirst for happiness and meaning.  It’s built within us.  Saint Augustine clarifies:  No one is really happy merely because he has what he wants, but only if he wants things he ought to want.  And what we ultimately want is God.  We cannot let our happiness depend on something we may lose but only upon God who will never pass away.  It boggles the mind of the modern person to consider that happiness involves, at times, going against oneself.  “If it makes me feel good then it must be right” is how so many people think.  Author Tim Keller hits the nail on the head counteracting that opinion with this quote: “The problem is that contemporary people think life is all about finding happiness.  We decide what conditions will make us happy and then we work to bring those conditions about.  To live for happiness means that you are trying to get something out of life.  But when suffering comes along, it takes the conditions for happiness away, and so suffering destroys all your reason to keep living.  But to live for ‘meaning’ means not that you try to get something out of life, but rather that life expects something from us.  In other words, you have meaning only when there is something in life more important than your own personal freedom and happiness, something for which you are glad to sacrifice your happiness.”   God truly wants happiness and joy for us, which come on His terms alone.  He who created us for Himself knows the things for which He created us, knows what will satisfy the very heart He Himself has made.  I love this thought from another writer, John MacArthur: “God is not a cosmic killjoy.  I know some people who believe He is.  They think God runs around saying: ‘now there’s someone having fun; get him!’  They believe God wants to rain on everybody’s parade.  But that isn’t so.  God made you.  He knows how you operate best.  And He knows what makes you happy.  The happiness He gives doesn’t stop when the party’s over; it lasts because it comes from deep within.”  This is the secret to the joy of the saints, who did as they OUGHT, not as they felt.  They lived out of the God who dwelt deep within their souls.  A noble life is what is expected of us from God.  And when we seek to live this way, with all its blessings and challenges, we are our happiest selves.