I was sitting in her kitchen having a Coke. She was an attractive woman and the parent of a pretty little girl. She was also another sad product of the “Me” generation who had overdosed on the road to “self-fulfillment.”
She had recently divorced her husband for the unspeakable crime of not making her happy. She had just sort of fallen out of love with him, whatever that means.
And this baby boomer could just as easily have been of the male gender, for this kind of insanity knows no discrimination.
As we talked, it became clear that she desperately wanted to justify herself to me, to her little girl, and to the world if it cared to listen, that what she had done was okay.
She succinctly concluded her closing argument with this question: “God wants me to be happy doesn’t He?”
And with those eight words this 30-something lady summed up a philosophy of life that permeates our culture.
Somehow, too many of us have bought into an ancient theology that says God exists for my personal pleasure. Ultimately, the end of all things is whatever I think will make me a “happy camper.” After all, doesn’t the Declaration of Independence guarantee me the right to “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness”?
Yet in the process of that never-ending odyssey we have ended up crucifying the notion of commitment, self-sacrifice, honor and integrity on the cross of convenience and immediate gratification.
You know what the truth is? The truth is that God is far more concerned about our holiness than He is with our happiness!
And the fact might rub us the wrong way, but it’s the right answer.
You see, “happiness” is something you receive by obeying the Word of God. It may sound a bit trite, but the old hymn writer summed it up fairly well when he penned, “Trust and obey, for there’s no other way to be happy in Jesus, but to trust and obey.”
Most Americans are frantically searching for contentment and a full, rich, satisfying life. The only problem is that too many of us are looking down the wrong holes. That’s why we pursuers of the “good life” consume 50 percent of the world’s illegal drugs. It’s a major reason why 46 million teenagers have a drinking problem.
We are so busy running after our own happiness that the average dad can only squeeze out seven minutes per week with his children, and then we wonder why!
Why is one in every four children from a single parent family?
Why is it that every 26 seconds there is a runaway? Why is it that every 8 seconds a child drops out of school? How come every 7 seconds a teenager has a baby?
Who can account for the reason why every seven minutes a young person is arrested for drugs and every day 135,000 kids bring guns to school?
Ah, but we have taught our children well! As a society, we have communicated to them (whether we meant to or not) that the most important thing in the world is one’s own personal pursuit of pleasure regardless of the broken pieces left in the wake of one’s own free spirit.
Sorry folks, but Pogo was right: “We have met the enemy and it are us.” We have attempted to fix the engine without the manual of life which is the culturally transcendent Word of the living God.
He knows exactly what “makes us happy” and it’s not doing our own thing, but it’s doing His will.
America is sliding down a slippery, slope of materialism, hedonism and humanism. At the bottom of that slide is the abyss of self-destruction. But here’s some good news. Jesus said: “I have come that you might have life and have it more abundantly.” It’s not the old life warmed over. It’s not reformation, but transformation through a personal relationship with Christ.
That’s the road to happiness and joy and contentment and peace and all the things that people really long for but so few ever really seem to find.
But God wants me happy doesn’t He?
Yes He does. But you’ll only find out how much at the foot of the cross and in a life lived for His glory instead of your own happiness.
Rev. Gary Cox is pastor of Meadowview Presbyterian Church (PCA) and serves as chaplain for the North Carolina National Guard. This article is reprinted with permission from The Dispatch (owned by the New York Times). Rev. Cox also serves as the Southeast Regional Coordinator for the Mission to North America (MNA) of the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA).