The Pursuit of Happiness

Posted by John Lindsay on 4th July 2016 in Christian Articles, News, Op Ed

Child-laughing

Relationships can be established for a host of reasons – attraction, convenience, obligation, mutual benefit, friendship, dominance, lust and the list goes on. Most people would place happiness high on their list of reasons to be in a relationship, but if happiness is contingent on a relationship, why are so many who enter into partnerships for even the best of reasons often so unhappy?

People are either givers or takers – or varying degrees of both. The nature of human relationships, therefore, falls somewhere between love and addiction, which is to say strong or weak based on the desires and maturity each individual brings to the table. It is customary to ask the bride and groom whether they are willing to forsake all others; to resist the erg of sending their affection elsewhere. If strength is based on how much a person is able to resist, then self-indulgence weakens an individual as well as any relationship to which they are associated.

Weakness and error compel individuals to form unions to dispel insecurity. The naïve enter into relationships under the assumption they will be perceived to be more valuable by others. They believe they will be safer and the other will be faithful. They hope to be completed by someone who will replace/overpower preexisting addictions. In short, people assume life will be easier in a relationship than being alone.

If two people enter into a sexual relationship based primarily on attraction, it is to satisfy themselves. Men are often eager to pay tribute to external beauty, but in doing so unwittingly enslave themselves to it. Even if two find comfort in trust after a lifetime, such trust is rarely built on mutual sacrifice. A house built on a weak foundation may appear to be sound, but upon closer examination cracks in the mortar are inevitable. What people with even the best of intentions fail to realize is the groundwork they lay is only as good as the preexisting foundations on which they are built upon.

A commonly used defense Americans use to insulate themselves from criticism concerning their relationship choices are their so-called rights. Somewhere along our recent timeline people have adopted the notion happiness is an inalienable right – which could not be farther from biblical instruction. No one can deserve happiness any more than they can deserve wealth. If the prerequisites for lasting wealth are knowledge, discipline, sacrifice, resource management, commitment, ingenuity, focus, planning and a good defense, it stands to reason spiritual benefits, like happiness, would not be awarded without merit.

Marriage between a man and a woman is not designed to make them happy. It is designed to sanctify them as a platform for the purpose of training godly children and mentoring other less experienced heterosexual couples as well as modeling Jesus’ relationship to his church. It has been said marriage is designed to make the man and woman holy. Even if that is true, it is difficult to imagine such a manifestation occurring until a long life of sacrifice and service to one another is accomplished.

Authority, romantic love and forgiveness cannot be taken. Such things are given, and, consequently, can be taken away. On the other hand, peace, happiness and faith, since they do not require a second party, are possible to attain by ourselves and cannot be taken without our permission. If happiness is an attainable destination, and the right of every American is the unrestricted access necessary to get there, what does such a road look like?

Proverbs 29:18 – “Without vision people perish, but he that keepeth the law, happy is he.” This proverb is an astute observation of how to obtain happiness. The first section declares what occurs when you attempt to achieve happiness apart from God. Vision, which was translated from the Hebrew word, hazon, means vision; revelation; a message from God. If the absence of an open line of communication with God results in chaos and destruction, it can be argued there is no self-control or integrity apart from an intimate knowledge of God through his word and divine revelation.

The word parish was translated from the Hebrew word para, and can be misleading. Para means to take the lead but not necessarily in a positive sense. Runners who take the lead prematurely rarely if ever win the race. Those who take what does not belong to them (i.e. control, authority) will lose it – often by the very means they acquired it. Para also means to be out of control, be unkept; running wild; [N] be unrestrained; to neglect; to promote wickedness – all of which lead to a bleak outcome which justifies the translator’s use of the word parish.

The second half of the proverb, “but he that keepeth the law (Torah), happy is he.” reveals the human obligation necessary to achieve happiness. Not only is the law the only requirement, how it is kept has bearing on the outcome. To keep, samar, means to keep, watch, observe, guard; to be set aside, be secured – like placing something valuable in a safe. The pursuit of happiness is therefore not contingent on any form of human relationship but on the observation of the word of God – which is the foundation and prerequisite for healthy relations.

If revelation and the observation and strict adherence to God’s boundaries and dictates are fundamental in the pursuit of happiness, then those who criticize and undermine Godly instruction and religious liberty, do so by violating the right of every practicing Christian and Jew. The peaceful opposition of sexual relations between same sex partners does not violate their right to pursue happiness because relationships are irrelevant where happiness is concerned. A government, however, which opposes the obligation of a person to freely practice and promote the principles of the Christian faith does violate the right of an American citizen to pursue happiness since happiness is not sustainable apart from morality.

Heterosexual relationships are doomed to fail without commitment, patience and unselfishness, which are attributes learned and maintained through Godly instruction. Trust is destined to dissolve when placed in another human being. When trust fails, forgiveness becomes necessary which is taught through God’s word and appreciated only by those who first accept God’s forgiveness – for how can a person give that which he has not first received? If heterosexual relationships which are opposed to Godly instruction do not contribute to happiness, how much more precarious is the homosexual lifestyle?

Nowhere in the Declaration of Independence does it suggest Americans have the right to be happy. It suggests all people should have the right to pursue happiness. Those who forget or reject the means by which happiness may be obtained will never truly be satisfied.

In the day the Founding Fathers formed our republic, Americans shared a common biblically-based morality which is unfortunately not the case today. Today, for Christians and Jews, the pursuit of happiness may no longer be an inalienable right but a God-given obligation for which the wise should expect to receive unrestricted opposition. Fortunately, it is in these harshest of circumstances God reveals truth and the believer finds strength. Happiness is a byproduct of that strength and is not something we get out of a relationship but what we bring to it.

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