What makes a person happy? When I was a teenager, I thought being popular would make me happy. But when I grew up, and barriers between friend groups came down, I found out that the popular kids hadn’t been any happier than the rest of us. I also used to think being rich would make me happy, that is until I watched a friend who was extravagantly wealthy lose his father to Alzheimer's in his twenties. Money had no ability to give him the love he longed for or the sense of purpose he needed to engage life. Over time, I saw that money was useful only to a point. In itself, it didn’t bring happiness. And when it wasn’t used to bless others, it could even be a source of great, gnawing emptiness.
In the Beatitudes, Jesus tells us that desiring to be pleasing to God will make us happy.
“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.”
Matthew 5:6 (NIV)
According to Jesus, if what we long for is to be righteous - in other words, to be and to do good and to have right relationship with God, we’ll be happy. Why? Because if that’s what we desire, we can be fully confident of getting what we want! This is so exciting when you think about it. God WILL give us righteousness if we desire it. And the righteousness God gives us WILL cause us to be happy and fulfilled. Righteousness isn’t something we strive to gain for ourselves with uncertain results. Rather, when we put our faith in Jesus, his righteousness is gifted to us. We enter into restored relationship with the Father, and the Spirit empowers us live out of the love, goodness, and faithfulness of Jesus. One way to rephrase this beatitude is simply to say that people who want Jesus will be happy because Jesus is given to all who ask.
If this is true, then why don’t we feel the joy of our righteousness in Jesus all the time? The key seems to be in our desires. If we hunger and thirst after Jesus - after healed relationship with God and after partnership with God in blessing those around us, then we will find our plates heaped high with Jesus. But so often we still get confused about what will truly make us happy, and we pursue empty things instead of Jesus. So let’s pray for God to be at work in our desires. Take some time to pray along with me right now.
Lord Jesus, cause us to recognize that you are what truly brings us happiness. Cause us to hunger and thirst for you and for your ways. Draw us close to you, and make us like you. Free us from religious lies that tell us righteousness and happiness are opposed to each other. Free us from worldly lies that tell us happiness is found in serving ourselves instead of others. Show us the truth, that happiness is found in longing for right relationship with God and in receiving the gift of your righteousness.
May God bring joy and fulfillment into your life this week and always.
Love in Christ,