Hardwired for Happiness: Part 1 of a 3-Session Conference
Based on the books I’ve read, the sermons I’ve heard, and the conversations I’ve had, I’m convinced that many Christians believe our desire for happiness was birthed in humanity’s fall.
But what if our desire for happiness comes from God? What if He wired His image bearers for happiness before sin entered the world? How might this perspective change our approach to life, parenting, church, ministry, business, sports, and entertainment?
Augustine asked rhetorically, “Is not a happy life the thing that all desire, and is there any one who altogether desires it not?” Then he added a critical question: “But where did they acquire the knowledge of it, that they so desire it? Where have they seen it, that they so love it?”[i]
Not only has God written His law on our hearts (see Romans 2:15); He’s written a love of happiness on our hearts.
Blaise Pascal, who said that “all men seek happiness,” wrote these words in his collection of thoughts on theology:
What else does this longing and helplessness proclaim, but that there was once in each person a true happiness, of which all that now remains is the empty print and trace? We try to fill this in vain with everything around us, seeking in things that are not there the help we cannot find in those that are there. Yet none can change things, because this infinite abyss can only be filled with something that is infinite and unchanging—in other words, by God himself. God alone is our true good.[ii]
In other words, the Fall didn’t generate the human longing for happiness—it derailed and misdirected it.
Recently I spoke on the topic of happiness at my home church, Good Shepherd Community Church, in a three-session conference. I’ll be sharing one full session in each of my blog posts this week.
My hope is that individuals, pastors, and small groups would consider utilizing these videos for study and discussion, as they contain a large amount of Scripture related to happiness. (My PowerPoint slides are included in the video.)
Pastor Alan Hlavka asked me a series of thoughtful questions, which I responded to in the first session, titled “Hardwired for Happiness, and Happiness vs. Joy.” The questions included:
- Does God expect us to be happy?
- We live in a broken world. Is it insensitive to say that we should be happy and that God wants us to be happy?
- In modern Christianity we tend to have a fear of talking about happiness. What’s the downside of avoiding addressing happiness?
- Does Scripture show there’s a difference between happiness and joy?
If you’ve never studied what Scripture says about happiness, or even if you think that happiness isn’t something believers should focus on, I encourage you to take the time to listen to or watch these sessions, and consider what God’s Word has to say.
[i] Augustine, “We Should Not Seek for God and the Happy Life Unless We Had Known It,” The Confessions of St. Augustine, trans. J. G. Pilkington.
[ii] Pascal, Pensées, number 425.
Photo credit: Brandon Couch via Unsplash