The Way to Happiness
- June 09, 2019
- Jared Odenbeck
Blaise Pascal proclaimed that, “All men seek happiness. This is without exception. Whatever different means they employ, they all tend to this end. The cause of some going to war, and of others avoiding it, is the same desire in both, attended with different views. The will never takes the least step but to this object. This is the motive of every action of every man, even of those who hang themselves.” I agree with him. Hedonism, or, the pursuit of joy and happiness, seems the central tenant in the heart of all men. Our society creates films and books and programs around it, and promote it as the one thing worth having. The only question is, “at what expense?” Can one attain happiness and joy while adhering to a Gospel that promotes self-denial and commands that one dies to his own flesh? I believe so, and many years of reading John Piper and his work convinces me of this.
Allow me a brief aside, now, to evaluate our culture. The central means by which the 21st century man aims to satisfy his quest for happiness is through the fulfillment of pleasure. This philosophy, Epicureanism, seeks to indulge in maximal pleasure and partake in experiences that bring intoxication to the soul, while mitigating and minimizing pain and suffering. Ironically, pain is mitigated through the maximal experience of pleasure, in that, while Epicureans recognize that pain is somewhat unavoidable, they assert that with a maximal indulgence in pleasure, pain is mitigated, if not eliminated altogether.
The obvious consequences of such a lifestyle are plain for all to see, so an examination of Epicureanism is not necessary at this time, unless one requests that I discuss it in another post (which I am happy to do). The point in this discussion must return to Pascal, who suggests that man is chiefly concerned with his own happiness. What brings about and maximizes his happiness, he will pursue and center his life and aims around, and therefore worship as his god. And, worship and praise and glorification rise from an experience of enjoyment. So, happiness correlates with enjoyment. That which makes man happy, he enjoys.
Our enjoyment, then, is chief in our glorification.
That’s why, according to John Piper’s Christian Hedonism, “God is most glorified when we are most satisfied in him” (Piper, Desiring God). Our satisfaction comes not in our effort or work or performance, but rather, we satisfy ourselves in him. And so it seems that our enjoyment of anything in life, whether worldly or spiritual, comes from being satisfied in him. And from satisfaction and happiness sprouts freedom, and a contagious freedom at that. The freedom that causes men to exclaim, “they are filled with new wine!” (Acts 2:13).
It follows, then, that we glorify him when we enjoy our work, our family, and “whatever your hand finds to do” (Ecclesiastes 9:10), no matter the circumstance or performance, we show that we are satisfied in him and have a superior pleasure and treasure that drives our joy. We magnify him as the source of our ultimate happiness. And though he may indeed sprinkle us with small and great joys in this world, these will flee, but he will remain.
We should not reject the joys and pleasures of eating, sleeping, training, learning, reading, and loving, among others, in order that we might satisfy ourselves in him. Rather, let us enjoy these gifts as a means by which we might satisfy ourselves in him, and ride upon these gifts as we exalt him in greater pleasure and glorification.