Sabbatical Reflections: The Pursuit of Happiness (Part 1 of 3)

As part of my sabbatical reflection, I am reading Marva J. Dawn’s book The Sense of the Call: A Sabbath Way of Life.

An early quote in the book captured my attention. Dawn wrote:  “We can easily give into our culture’s craving for happiness and miss the true joy of genuine faithfulness” (3).  It seems to me that true happiness is in fact the joy of genuine faithfulness.

Wiktionary defines happiness as 1)  joy, the emotions of being happy, 2) good luck, good fortune, prosperity, and 3)  an agreeable feeling or condition of the soul arising from good fortune or propitious happening.

The word “happy” is derived from the Middle English word “hap” meaning “chance,” “good fortune,” “luck.” So, basically, to be happy is to have good hap.

Surely, in the modern materialistic West, happiness is the pursuit of good hap.  It has the sense of chasing pleasure and good fortune.  It seems to involve the self-absorption of a narcissistic culture. “It’s always about me.”  Happiness can be summed up in the Hedonist’s manifesto:  Eat, drink, and be merry,  for tomorrow we die!

In reality, the pursuit of happiness when defined as good circumstances, good luck, and good feeling,  can actually lead to much unhappiness.  People use alcohol, drugs, limitless sex, and sometimes work to satiate a life that is lonely and unhappy.  People who have “everything” are often unhappy when they have it and are devastated when they lose it.

Because we live in a world dominated by an atheistic and materialistic culture we must be careful to stand away from the modern atheistic paradigm of happiness and continually press into the historic Biblical paradigm.

-Darrow L. Miller

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