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Life, Liberty and the Pursuit

The first time I met Micah was on the basketball courts. It didn’t take long for me to conclude that he didn’t really fit in and probably didn’t have many friends. He was one of those guys that wasn’t picked last for teams, because he saved himself the embarrassment and didn’t even try to play. All things aside, I liked Micah; with a combination of innocence and naivety, I knew that we would get along just fine.

“I just want to find a girl and have a one-night stand,” Micah blurted out as we sat around at a friend’s place talking. I was a bit shocked to hear this from Micah’s mouth; I wondered what was happening to that innocent, church-going kid I had met months earlier? At this moment in his life, this was what he felt was the missing piece, the thing that would bring happiness or at least numb the loneliness. A “one-night stand” was what he determined would help him fit in, be accepted and cure his social awkwardness.

At once Micah got me thinking about my own life. I’m living the dream. I have a good job that pays the bills, a new car in the garage, a house, a beautiful wife and an incredible little daughter. So I should be completely happy and content right? I should thank God for my blessings, put a big fat smile on my face and live happily ever after! The answer is yes I should, but that isn’t entirely the case.

When I look at the whole of my blessings, a whisper of deceit points out what is absent and promises me there is more. I am left with an empty feeling that there is something missing, something to be obtained that will complete my happiness. So I go in pursuit of that unidentified and unknown thing hoping to bring fulfillment to my life.

I have spent so much of my life making similar declarations as Micah. If I had a girlfriend I’d be satisfied with life. If I got a raise I’d like this job more. If I paid off my debts I’d be happier. I allow myself to believe that if just a couple more of my dreams would fall into place I will find true contentment and joy.

What I have come to realize is that nothing in this world will ever make any of us truly happy, content or complete. Once we have achieved some sense of success or happiness we will long for something else. We will always want our neighbors’ car, house or spouse. We will always want a younger, slimmer and sexier body. Once we have achieved a level of happiness somehow we allow it to stale, and we must go in search of a new, fresh dream. Yes, this is the characteristic within us that allows us to become successful and to continually improve ourselves, but instead of accomplishment and satisfaction, we allow the feeling to become a drug. We will always want more, and instead of it ushering in happiness, it continues to leave us frustrated and unsatisfied.

In C.S Lewis’ The Problem of Pain, he points out that by our very nature as humans we crave security and happiness. God scatters moments of joy and pleasure throughout our lives, yet in His wisdom, refrains from allowing it to flow fully. If He were to allow a full sense of security and peace here on earth, we would set our hearts here and would oppose returning to Him. He sums up his thoughts by saying, “Our Father refreshes us on the journey with some pleasant inns, but will not encourage us to mistake them for home”.

There are those who would argue, “What kind of a God would withhold joy and happiness from those He supposedly loves so much?” I would answer that it is a God that knows what the other side has in store for us. My hope is that what we call happiness and joy here on earth will be just a sliver of what is in store for us there. Like any good father, God has our best interests in mind.

As I continued to read the works of C.S. Lewis, I stumbled upon another truth in our quest for happiness. He wrote in Mere Christianity that, “God designed the human machine to run on Himself. He Himself is the fuel our spirits were designed to burn …God cannot give us happiness and peace apart from Himself, because it is not there. There is no such thing.” God truly is our source of happiness and peace.

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The feeling of an absence in our lives is our souls longing for Gods presence. The missing piece or the key to happiness then is found in God alone. That whisper of deceit is detouring us away from true joy and fulfillment and giving us just 500 milligrams of relief at a time. It is keeping us so busy chasing after fleeting dreams that we miss God’s presence in our lives; we miss the true happiness that was there all along.

That is where I find the simple answer to my longing for happiness despite all of the blessings I have. Maybe this is an answer for you as well. Perhaps you have been promising yourself that you will find happiness, contentment or completeness when your bills are paid or after graduation, when you find someone to love or when you finally make it to that vacation. Maybe you feel that something is absent in your life. Yeah, the world offers a joy that is adequate for a while, but we all know that there is an expiration date on such bliss; in the end it is just an empty diversion. Fortunately Gods happiness is eternal!

“Everything exists in limited quantity—especially happiness” — Picasso

“When we want something other than the thing God wants us to be, we must be wanting what, in fact, will not make us happy” —C.S. Lewis

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