We want happiness; we are ever in search of it; a current book written by a Briton describes how we Americans can’t find it. Perhaps we are more prone to search harder for happiness; its pursuit is built-in to our founding document and character. Or turn on PBS and you’ll hear about “mindful awareness”, an eastern practice that’s the en vogue way to happiness. Even the mundane details of the election are described as threats or helps to your pursuit of happiness.
We are awash in voices, telling us how to be happy. We need to discern what’s really being said.
What’s being said is only a partial truth. Every voice above is true, in part, but not in whole. And all of these voices come from the world, even those from within. Ours is a culture, system and order that bends away from God. Do you remember Pravda, the Communist Party-controlled newspaper? What did we call the words that came from that “voice”? Misinformation . . . propaganda. Today, nothing has changed. We’re living in the same page of the thesaurus: spin, disinformation, advertising . . . presidential debates. We’re awash in propaganda, telling us what will make us happy, and what threatens our happiness.
We fight propaganda, of course, with truth. Listen to Scripture talk about happiness, and expect to be reoriented towards true north, towards sanity and solid ground. But expect to take a surprising route.
Take Psalm 107. Its point is clearly happiness. The writer recounts all that God has done, all His gracious deeds. He extols the grace of God, and “The upright see it and are glad . . .” (v. 42). He ends with: “Whoever is wise, let him attend to these things; let them consider the steadfast love of the LORD.” (v. 43). No surprises yet.
But he is also very realistic about himself, and about God’s people. They/we become proud and wander. We have been rescued, and continue to need rescue. The proud wandering of God’s people becomes the black backdrop that makes the pure grace and love of God beautiful.
To get “up”, go down. Be realistic about you. Happiness begins, surprisingly, with humility, followed by the even more surprising step of confession. This is crucial for happiness, because only through humility and confession can we actually see past our pride-bloated selves to Him who alone makes us truly happy. Therefore be very, very “realistic”, too, about God. Fools keep listening to the happiness propaganda. The wise “consider the steadfast love of the LORD.”