Pop quiz time - Please complete the sentence below:
Well, what did you come up with? I figured you probably have an opinion on this subject, because I googled 'happiness quotes' and it returned 2,570,000 results.
No, I didn't read them all. But I perused enough of them to discover that most people want to be happy, but most haven't quite figured it out.
As it turns out, MTV decided to figure it out … in the minds of teenagers anyway. So they sent out a monster 81-page survey to young people all over the nation from all sorts of different races, religions, and realities.
Yes, I read the whole thing – and it made me very happy to discover that the majority of respondents felt that spending time with parents and family was a primary source of happiness. Not sex, drugs, and rock 'n' roll. Not cell phones or video games or social networking or bling. Just good ole fashioned hanging with the fam.
In some ways, these results are a bit of a newsflash, but they probably shouldn't be. I guess since we are all exposed to a few trillion advertisements each week that promise happiness in one form or another, our view of the truth has been warped- and the truth is that we are hardwired from birth with a need to belong and be in a family. When that works out here on earth, we're generally happy. When it doesn't, well, life takes on a real depressing tone.
Here's something that might be another newsflash – but this information doesn't come from a survey. This truth about happiness comes from the One who made us and knows us better than we know ourselves. Check it out:
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled. (Matthew 5:6)
These are the words of Jesus to a crowd that probably wasn't very happy. The poor among them thought happiness could be found in money and possessions, and the rich among them knew that wasn't true. All of them were looking for how to complete the sentence of "happiness is…," so Jesus gives them the answer.
Happiness is … a desire to have a right relationship with God, because when you do, your hardwired need for belonging and relationship will be permanently met.
See, the word "blessed" here has a concept of happiness behind it, so Jesus is promising that the pursuit of happiness is really about the pursuit of God – and that pursuit ends when you trust Christ and you become part of God's family. Here's the way a man named Augustine put it:
"Thou hast formed us for Thyself, and our hearts are restless till they find rest in Thee."
What he is saying is that God formed us in our mother's womb with a homing device that won't find its home until Jesus moves in. That's why Jesus is telling us to get right with God – so that we can find true happiness in a personal and permanent relationship with Him. He will "fill in" the eternity shaped hole in our hearts that nothing on earth can satisfy.
How? Here's how Jesus explains it in John 14:
"All those who love me will do what I say. My Father will love them, and we will come to them and live with them when the Father sends the Counselor as my representative – and by the Counselor I mean the Holy Spirit – he will teach you everything and will remind you of everything I myself have told you."
Get the connection? Jesus is telling us that as believers, we have the amazing privilege of having God live inside us. And did you notice He used the word "we?" The fact is when we trust Christ, we enter in to a right relationship with God and the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit make their home in our heart. That's when the gap gets filled, and we are never alone ever again. We become part of a "tribe" that includes the Father, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit – a.k.a. the Trinity. This is the kind of thing that can definitely make you happy because here are just a few implications that flow out of having the Trinity living inside you:
We have a Heavenly Father, so no matter what our earthly father is/was like, we have a perfect one who will never leave us or forsake us.
We have a Savior who is both God and human, which means there is no temptation or trial we can go through that He hasn't been through already.
We have a Spirit living inside us who is none other than God Himself, which means we are never, ever, alone. He is always there to cheer, comfort, encourage, guide, and a hundred other things that only God can do.
So if you're in the pursuit of happiness and it just keeps getting away from you like a greased pig in an ice-skating rink, maybe you are looking for it in the wrong place. Change the pursuit of happiness to the pursuit of God, and your pursuit will come to a happy ending!
Lane Palmer is the Youth Ministries Specialist for Dare 2 Share Ministries in Arvada, Colo., where he works with to provide resources for youth leaders and students. Dare 2 Share exists to energize and equip teens to know, live, share and own their faith in Jesus. For more information on Dare 2 Share Ministries or the GameDay youth conference tour, please visit www.dare2share.org. Send feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org.