How To Be Happy
Everyone wants to be happy, but eventually we all discover that happiness is as elusive as the wind. Experiencing happiness is not so unusual per se, but being able to hang on to it is. That’s why Americans speak of “the pursuit of happiness”. It is something every human chases after, but not many actually find.
Being successful in our pursuit of happiness requires two things: (1) that we know how to get it and (2) that we actually have the ability to get it. To know how to get it but not be able to would be horrifically cruel. To be able to get it but not know how would be just as devastating. We must have both, and the reality is that we can have both.
The Problem Diagnosed
Every human being has two essential, irrevocable longings. We long to be known fully, and we long to be loved completely. These constitute our deepest needs. Without one or both, our soul shrivels up. The reason we struggle to be happy is because trying to find both of these elements together is next to impossible.
We can find someone to love us, but as they get closer and our faults and failures begin to show, we become harder to love. Much of the love we experience is only surface level. The more we are known, the more our ugly side is exposed, the more difficult it is to love us. All of us, whether we would admit it or not, have a side of ourselves we have never exposed to another. We have had thoughts or desires that never made it to the surface of our lives, and even we would be horrified if they did. If you disagree, consider this illustration. What if there were a small TV monitor attached to your forehead that showed every thought that passed through your mind, or if there were a transcriber somehow recording every desire that welled up in your heart, and this information would be made public knowledge, even to your friends and family…would they think any less of you?
Deep down, we all know that if we were to expose every nook and cranny of our souls, there would be a lot there to inspire revolting and disgust. Therefore, we are careful to present ourselves in the best possible manner, because at least then we can find measures of love and acceptance from others.
Or maybe that’s not the case. Maybe you can’t find someone to love you because your ugly side has been exposed. Perhaps some of your worst traits and most repulsive characteristics have been shown for the world to see. In this sense, you really are known by others. But you are not loved by them. They discovered who you really are and recoiled at it. Your true self has become known and met with a lack of love.
In either case, all of us struggle to be both known fully and loved completely. We are either not fully known but loved in a surface level way, or we are fully known but not loved because of the blackness that exists in our hearts.
The way the Bible labels this problem is sin. We are all wicked people, evil at heart, with dark and selfish intentions, and either they bubble to the surface and we are ostracized by society or we keep them fairly under wraps and find degrees of acceptance and love. The world looks on and calls the first a failure and the second a success. But reality is that neither scenario is sufficient to be truly happy.
A Guaranteed Formula For Happiness
Real, lasting happiness comes when we are known fully and loved completely. When our true self is exposed—good, bad, and ugly—and yet we are loved nonetheless, then we find contentment. That is the key to happiness! Unfortunately, that combination doesn’t exist in this world. No one person truly knows us to the depths of our being, and no one person truly loves us despite what they know. It’s impossible. Human beings are not capable of that kind of knowledge or that kind of love.
We would be wise to listen to C.S. Lewis on this point:
If I find in myself desires which nothing in this world can satisfy, the only logical explanation is that I was made for another world.
Human beings cannot meet your deepest needs. They do not have the resources to do so. But God does, and so God can meet your deepest needs. God is the only one who can know you fully and love you completely. He is the only one who can bring those two things together and hold them in perfect harmony. This is not just theoretical. God already proved it to us:
God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (Romans 5:8)
God sees your sin. He knows you fully, every detestable thing you have ever said, done, or even thought. And he still loves you enough to die for you. God does not love you because he is oblivious to your shortcomings.
Conversely, he does not hate you despite what he sees in your heart. Even though he is aware of every bit of darkness that exists within you, he loves you anyways. He does not run away at the sight of who you really are. Instead, he loves.
This is the good news of the Christian faith. You can be known fully and loved completely. You can have the deepest longings of your heart satisfied in Christ Jesus. You don’t have to continue ignoring who you really are, or feeling like you can never be loved. Instead, you can turn to Jesus and find everything you’ve been looking for. You can be happy, but not without him.