Happiness

What makes you happy?  For me, it would be pie and chips, Bradford City winning and holidays in Paris. 

What do you desire?   For me, unlimited ice cream and a pet dog.

Psalm 20 and Psalm 21 both talk about God granting the desires of our hearts. What does it mean for him to do this? As your local Prosperity Gospel preacher and they will tell you that it means if you exercise faith, you can have anything you want, a Mercedes, mansion, untold riches and a private jet.

We immediately recoil at such obviously materialistic and selfish ideas.  We also tend to notice that the claims don’t seem to work for the majority of people in their churches. Prosperity teaching works like a pyramid scheme with only the people right at the top of the pile benefiting. So we tend to scale in our expectations. It would be selfish for us to want expensive cars, mansions, money and fame.  So we settle for the belief that God will cure minor ailments, help us get the right job and ensure our children get the right grades at A-Level.  This sounds a bit like we have opted for prosperity lite doesn’t it? So, we back away again.

Psalm 37:4 says

Delight yourself in the Lord and he will give you the desires of your heart.

We instinctively realise that the first part of the verse is crucial. It’s not simply a case of pursuing what I desire. We start by delighting in God, praising him, glorifying him. That’s when our desires become aligned to his desires and he gives us them because we are praying for and seeking what he is seeking.

There is still a challenge though. John Piper has often talked about how we tend to think in terms of a dichotomy here. We can either seek God’s glory, or we can pursue our desires and our happiness.  There will still then be a constant struggle as I attempt to glorify him but long for my own well-being and happiness.  Piper then says that something clicked for him as he reflected on the Westminister Shorter Catechism.  It’s first question asks:

What is the chief end (goal) of man (people).

The Answer is

To glorify God and enjoy him forever

However, notice that we are asked what the end (singular) is, not what the ends (plural) are.  We have one goal. Glorifying God and enjoying him forever function as a single purpose. Piper says that we glorify God BY enjoying him. I would also suggest that we enjoy him by glorifying him.

What we are discovering is that actually, our primary desire as human beings is to be happy, joyful, contented, loved, at peace.  My desire was never really for the big house, fast car and loyal dog.  Rather, my desire was for happiness and I believed that those things would give me what I wanted. However, we should have all learnt by now that money and material pleasures cannot bring us true happiness.

So, in one sense, the problem is not with my desires (there is a sense in which it is but we will come back to that another time).  The problem is that I seek to fulfil my desire in the wrong place. I delight in material things and unhealthy pursuits instead of in the Lord but those things can never satisfy, never bring joy, never offer faithful love.

So, it is as I learn to trust him, to love him, to praise him and enjoy a relationship with him that I discover true happiness and he grants the desires of my heart.

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