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The pursuit of happiness (10/02/2011)

By T.M. Schoewe

Most of you know by heart the founding statement on which the government of the U.S.A. is built, that we all are created equal and given certain understood rights, such as life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. So you have the right, the freedom to engage in the chase, or race for happiness. And that right assumes we have the right to fight that which would prevent or interfere with our race or pursuit of happiness. The great question then is “what is happiness?” For centuries, philosophers, theologians, and great thinkers like Plato and Socrates have wrestled with what really is happiness. Recently a couple of books tackled the problem. “Explaining Happiness: From Aristotle to Brain Science,” by Sissela Bok, and another by Derek Bok, titled “The Politics of Happiness.” You will never get a plain definition of happiness by studying these books but you will learn much about yourself. One thing you will learn is that buying a new car or giving your little daughter a puppy gives you only a temporary happiness.

Probably the best we can do is take to heart what old St. Augustine has to say and which goes way ahead of all your cherished desires. Augustine insists there is but one kind of happiness that is worth experiencing, and that is not determined by our own personal choices. Augustine in his confessions is speaking to God. He insists, “Happiness is to rejoice in YOU and for YOU and because of YOU. This is true happiness and there is no other.” In his youth many things seemed to promise true happiness for Augustine such as play, food, friendship, sex, etc

but he concluded these pleasures are not real and do not bring true happiness. Another great respected dogmatician, Thomas Aquinas, agrees. “Perfect happiness consists of nothing else than the vision of the Divine Essence - God.” So seeing in and behind the nature all about you, the “great YOU.” Or seeing the YOU in your neighbor. Or seeing in the unfolding of history, despite the good and bad, the still quiet YOU, is to find and pursue happiness.

We conclude this pursuit with two great men that were both bachelors. The first is our Lord and the second is His apostle.

Our Lord Jesus certainly had a clear vision of the great YOU behind His tour on this globe of humanity spinning in space. He certainly must have had a happy twinkle in his eye when He told some of the parables. For men and women to follow what he said about marriage is a good road to happiness. And when we consider the terrible treatment and unspeakable shame of His Crucifixion, hanging naked on the cross, and then read in Hebrews 12 v.2, “looking unto the Author and Finisher of our faith, Who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross,” we are overcome with awe, awe that turns into happiness. And after the resurrection it must have been a happy Lord who told His friends to go tell the story to this unhappy world.

Another traveler on the road to happiness was Paul, the writer of most of the books in the N.T. You can read his story in the book of Acts. Troubles of all kinds came his way but you cannot read one of his epistles and not come away saying “this is a happy fellow.” Please open your Bible and read 1 Cor. 13. We know you probably know it and have heard it read at some weddings. But if you will note some of the things it says about love, and then actually do them in your family or with your neighbor, you will discover happiness! Go down the list and put them into practice in your family and with friends and you will really be engaged in the pursuit of happiness.

And really, if our country stands on the foundation of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, maybe we should pray for it and be willing to defend it from all enemies both foreign and domestic. So help us God!



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