The right to “the pursuit of happiness” affirmed in the Declaration of Independence is taken these days to affirm a right to chase after whatever makes one subjectively happy.
What is happiness? Happiness is a mental or emotional state of well-being characterized by positive or pleasant emotions ranging from contentment to intense joy.
We tell our children, "You can be whatever you want to be; I just want you to be happy." "Follow your heart. Do what makes you happy."
I have to admit. I love being happy. I am happy. I have a happy life and a happy family. I like to be in the air conditioning because it makes me happy. I like to stay up late because it makes me happy. I like to eat cookies because they make me happy. Sometimes I like being so happy that I eat a dozen cookies and then get sick because I've eaten so many. But man that 5 minutes of happiness of cookies was worth it, right?
So is happiness the ultimate goal? The thing to strive for in life? Whatever the cost?
Sadly, for so many people it is. I'm not sure if it's because that's what we've always been taught. Or we feel entitled to be happy. Or because being depressed just isn't any fun. But most people would say they pursue happiness.
So in the Declaration of Independence, were our founding fathers telling us to do whatever we want, whatever the cost to be HAPPY?
NO! “The pursuit of happiness” means something like occupying one’s life with the activities that provide for overall well-being. This certainly includes a right to material things, but it goes beyond that to include humanity’s spiritual and moral condition.
Is being a drunkard a good thing to do because it makes us happy? Is smoking weed and getting high every weekend what we should do because it makes us happy and is fun? Is sleeping around and having sex with whoever we please what we should do because it makes us happy?! A lot of times SIN IS FUN! Hello?! Do you think Satan is stupid? He's not going to tempt us to do boring things! Sin is enticing and fun and will make us happy... short term!!!
But as a Christian we are to pursue what makes God happy. And how do we know what pleases God? We ask Him, we read the Word He has given us, and we follow his guidance through the Holy Spirit. God has given us wisdom. And if you don't have the wisdom find someone who does!
We should pursue what is good and right and what pleases God. Sometimes we won't be happy and that's ok. Sometimes doing the right thing is not fun at all. And that is ok! We have to stand up for what is right and do what is right.
We need to put other's needs before our own selfish desires so that we can be pleasing to The Lord.
So today I want to encourage you to stop pursuing happiness and start pursuing a relationship with The Lord.
Some info about the meaning of the "pursuit of happiness" was pulled from this blog post.