Wednesday, 21 December 2011
Christians who live in the United States often value what the country values. That's often a very good thing but sometimes it's a very bad thing. There are yet other times in which such values simply fall short of the expectations of scripture. Many of us over-value the pursuit of happiness which is such a prevalent value for those in the United States. Everyone wants to be happy. In a lot of ways this is a noble value to embrace but if we are not careful it can be destructive. It's my belief that many of us Christians often pair this value with the absence of persecution and seek to construct lives and a society that aid us in our pursuit of happiness by procuring for ourselves protection from hardships others would bring upon us for our faith. I don't think this should be.
I've written before on how it's good to rethink how much we value freedom of religion and our pursuit of avoiding persecution. I've also written about how the pursuit of happiness isn't sufficient. Here I wish to combine these ideas and I desire to do so by quoting one of the greatest theologians of the 20th century, Dietrich Bonhoeffer. In his book Life Together, he stated,
Seek God, not happiness - this is the fundamental rule of all meditation. If you seek God alone, you will gain happiness.
Keep in mind that Bonhoeffer wrote these words at a time in which he had returned to Nazi infested Germany from the safety of the United States. He was living out these words, seeking out the will of God over his own happiness, at a great cost. Seeking God often requires a great deal of suffering. It always requires the loss of self. It is never sexy or entirely self-gratifying. It is not a safe pursuit. However, it is a pursuit that rewards richly in a way that is often unexpected. It's an upside down life. Seeking God will force us to gain many a terrible thing but it will also gain us happiness.
Truly, if we seek God we will receive happiness. If we seek happiness we will quickly find that our aim was shortsighted and selfish. When we live as lovers of God, being selfless, giving to God and others through life we find happiness "for it is in giving that we receive" (St. Francis of Assisi). We need a higher goal than our own happiness. We need God. Let us seek God and see what he gives us.
Delight yourself in the LORD; And He will give you the desires of your heart (Psalm 37:4).
We can value the pursuit of happiness but our pursuit should not be happiness itself. Let us have longsight and seek God himself who is love for in love alone will genuine and worthwhile happiness be found. Any other happiness shall be rotten and not worth pursuit.
In what ways have you been pursuing happiness? Have you been pursuing God to pursue happiness, or have you been pursuing happiness itself?