Is It Wrong to Want to Be Happy?
Whoever desires to love life and see good days, let him keep his tongue from evil and his lips from speaking deceit; let him turn away from evil and do good; let him seek peace and pursue it. 1 Peter 3:10
What good does faith do for me? I once believed that Christianity meant giving up all the fun stuff in life. It was my understanding that Christians made sacrifices now, so that we would be rewarded in the afterlife. Then, at church someone once told me that going to heaven meant singing hymns of praise forever. Won’t that be glorious?! It didn’t sound glorious to me. It sounded like I’d been hoodwinked So, the afterlife will be dreary too? What good is following God if both this life and the next one are boring?
I thought the good life lay in doing whatever I wanted, indulging in my appetite for self-gratification. My faith seemed to allow for this. Forgiveness meant that I could do whatever I wanted today, ask forgiveness tomorrow, and get away with it. Faith meant no consequences for my actions, no matter how self-destructive they may be. I’d just ask God to forgive me afterward and – poof – all would be well.
I can tell you this though. I’ve never been so miserable as when I was doing whatever I desired. In following my appetite above all, I invited addiction, chaos, and despair into my life. I thought following my nature was the path to the good life, but in the end, it was the fastest route to misery. Addiction was a profound state of wretchedness – even if I was eternally forgiven.
In today’s passage, Peter quoted the Psalms to reiterate the secret to the good life. A life of authentic joy and peace is paradoxically found not in following our own nature, but rather in abandoning our way so that we may follow God. This doesn’t mean we’ll get rich if we live right. It just means that if we want peace, we must abandon those things that cause us chaos.
In my case, this meant not following my appetite for pills. Pills brought momentary gratification, but with a tremendous price to pay later. Instant gratification is like that – pleasure now, pay later. Delayed gratification on the other hand, requires some sacrifice up front, but provides lasting joy after. My problem wasn’t that I wanted to be happy. It’s not wrong to desire joy and peace. My problem has been in how I’ve gone about finding it.
God wants us to experience a life of joy. He made us to find it though, not in following our will, but his. It’s not wrong to want happiness. We just need to seek it in the right place.