Human history is the story of our desperate search for true and lasting happiness. Even those people who appear to “have it all” long for something more, and sadly, they often give up hope of ever finding contentment and joy.
In the midst of hopelessness, God offers the good news of his transforming grace, mercy, love, and eternal happiness: “Let the one who is thirsty come; let the one who wants it take the water of life free of charge” (Revelation 22:17, NET).
Our greatest needs and longings can be fulfilled only in God, the “fountain of living waters” (Jeremiah 2:13).
Despairing people everywhere thirst for gladness, trying to derive it from sources that cannot ultimately satisfy. They eagerly drink from contaminated water surrounded by huge signs with neon letters flashing, “Fun and Happiness!”
Sometimes there’s no fun at all, and usually what little happiness there is quickly evaporates, leaving shame and regret. If the signs were accurate, they would warn, “Deadly Poison,” with the caveat underneath: “May taste good before it kills you.”
God laments the poor choices we make when searching for happiness: “My people have committed two evils: they have forsaken me, the fountain of living waters, and hewed out cisterns for themselves, broken cisterns that can hold no water” (Jeremiah 2:13).
When we’re thirsty, we don’t look up “water” on Wikipedia. We don’t go to social media to find out what others say about water. We don’t drink out of the nearest puddle. Personally, I go to the faucet and satisfy my thirst by drinking some of the world’s best water from the Bull Run water system here in Oregon.
Similarly, in the spiritual realm, I find God to be pure, refreshing, and satisfying. My happiest days are when I drink most deeply of him. I also know that if I don’t drink of him, whatever else I drink from will leave me thirsty, dissatisfied, and sick.
George Whitefield wrote, “I drank of God’s pleasure as out of a river. Oh that all were made partakers of this living water.”
Jonestown was a socialist community and cult in South America. In 1978, after murdering a US congressman and four others, Jim Jones gathered his cult members, who had relocated from the United States to Guyana, and served them a grape-flavored drink laced with cyanide. He killed himself and 912 of his followers.
From this came the expression “Don’t drink the Kool-Aid,” which means, “Following someone blindly is a very bad idea.” This is good advice for gullible people who are prone to believe that counterfeits can deliver happiness.
Trusting Jim Jones, and all fake sources of happiness, brings pain and loss. Jesus, in contrast, is fully worthy of our trust. He, who drank the cup of suffering on our behalf so we could be saved (see Matthew 26:27-28), makes this offer: “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water’” (John 7:37-38).
We’re free to be unhappy. We’re free to search for happiness where it can’t be found. We’re free to eat chocolate-covered cyanide. What we’re not free to do is reinvent God, the universe, or ourselves so that what isn’t from God will bring us happiness. It cannot, and it never will.
Are you thirsty for happiness—for meaning, peace, contentment? Jesus invites you to join hundreds of millions throughout history and across the globe, and a multitude of those now living in his immediate presence, to come to him and drink the best water in the universe—the only refreshment that will ever fully and eternally satisfy.
Once we’ve come to Christ and experienced his refreshment, part of the Holy Spirit’s ministry is to infuse us with happiness in God.
English theologian Richard Sibbes (1577–1635) wrote, “Though we have not always the joy of the Spirit, yet we have the Spirit of joy.” In other words, even in times of sorrow, happiness is not far away, since the Holy Spirit, who is also the Happy Spirit, indwells every believer.
Did you find it jarring to see the Holy Spirit referred to as the Happy Spirit? I am certainly not proposing a name change! But the Spirit’s connection with happiness is explicitly biblical.
Nine qualities are listed as the fruit of the Spirit, the first being love and the second, joy (see Galatians 5:22-23). The Contemporary English Version renders it, “God’s Spirit makes us loving, happy, peaceful, patient, kind . . .”
We’re told that Kingdom living is “about pleasing God, about living in peace, and about true happiness. All this comes from the Holy Spirit” (Romans 14:17, CEV). Luke tells us that Jesus was “full of joy through the Holy Spirit” (Luke 10:21, NIV). The verse is also rendered this way: “The Holy Spirit made Jesus feel very happy” (ERV).
By being happy in the Holy Spirit, in Christ, and in the Father, we lay claim to the fact that God is infinitely bigger and more powerful than the Fall. We affirm that our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ will reverse the Curse and reign over a new universe.
By faith we draw upon that glorious and eternally happy world Christ purchased and promised us. Our present happiness whispers and sometimes shouts that our God lives among us and works in the world—and in our hearts—every minute of every hour of every day.
This blog is excerpted from Randy’s new book Does God Want Us to Be Happy?
Does God Want Us to Be Happy? offers a collection of short, easy readings on one of life’s biggest questions: in a world full of brokenness, is happiness a worthy pursuit for Christians?
Photo by Jacek Dylag on Unsplash
Randy Alcorn (@randyalcorn) is the author of over sixty books and the founder and director of Eternal Perspective Ministries.