If you are unaware, I am in a Western American context where much is made of happiness. The whole goal and aim of life is to “be happy” for most Americans. Parental relationships with their children is based upon their child’s happiness. Adults pursue happiness through work, relationships, hobbies, sports, etc. If I were to walk down the street and poll people on what they wanted from life, it would be to “be happy”. Yet, clinically diagnosed depression is on the rise and people are as unhappy as ever. Even Christians believe that their primary aim is to pursue happiness. However, I believe this view is unbiblical at best and ultimately destructive at worst.
Let me explain by backing up and asking the ultimate question. What is the purpose of humans? According to the Westminster Shorter Catechism, it is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever (Is. 43:7). To which, I would then ask, how do we best glorify God? To this question, I would answer holiness.
How do I arrive at that conclusion? Christians are commanded to “be holy as I am Holy” (1 Peter 1:16). Furthermore, holiness is the only attribute of God that is thrice repeated in the same sentence (Revelation 4:8). This thrice repeated nature of God tells me that holiness is His most defining attribute . As humans, created in the image of God, the best way in which we image God and fulfill our purpose is our holiness. Therefore, our primary pursuit is not to be happy but rather holy.
When we pursue happiness, we find that we never are able to achieve it. Read Ecclesiastes sometime. Solomon spent much of his life pursuing the fleeting pleasures of life and found he could not have anything that was lasting. What he discovered along with many others, once we achieve our “happiness” we find we no longer have it. Happiness is temporary, fleeting, and transient. Holiness on the other hand is something that we can have in increasing proportions.
How do we then become “holy”? Holiness involves all aspects of our being and it encompasses the totality of life. Simply put holiness involves right thinking, right living, right affections, and right believing, righteousness in other words. God designed and desires us to purse holiness. Therefore, as a result, I am convinced of this truth: that our happiness increases in proportion to our holiness. In other words, the more holy you become, the happier you become. Remember, that one of the fruits of the Spirit is “joy”?
What we have done in our culture is substitute the reward for the end. Happiness is the right and proper reward of holiness. In the same way, a medal is awarded to an athlete who runs a race. If I went out and bought a medal that had a “1st place” on it, you would wonder what I had done to earn the reward. If I said I just bought it so I could be 1st place, you would laugh at my idiocy or be frustrated with my arrogance. Or consider another example C.S. Lewis once gave, marriage is the proper reward for a lover not money (dowry). If a man got married for money, we would think of him as a mercenary. For the person who pursues holiness, he finds that his happiness has grown as well.
Therefore, don’t spend your life pursuing something fleeting like happiness. Instead pursue holiness and you may find that you are happy and encourage youth to do the same.
 My thoughts have been guided here by the following book, which I highly recommend: Welch, Edward T. When People Are Big and God Is Small: Overcoming Peer Pressure, Codependency, and the Fear of Man. Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R Pub., 1997. Print. pgs. 118-119, 150.
 Lewis, C.S. The Weight of Glory. San Francisco, CA: Harper Collins Publishers, Inc., 2001. Pgs. 26-27.
Andrew Hayes, currently a youth pastor in Sterling, CO has lived and worked all over the place–California, Montana, North Carolina, and Tennessee. He is a graduate of Bryan College in Youth Ministry and is working towards his M.Div. at Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary. He and his wife Julie love all things outdoors–but most importantly, they love Jesus and students!!