Throughout the ages mankind has made happiness their pursuit. Puritan, Ralph Venning (1621-1673) said,
“Though there is nothing more natural to man, than to seek after happiness, yet there is nothing that the nature of man is less able to find out than what will bring him happiness”.
Before I look at the issue of why man cannot find lasting happiness by his own strength, I want to look at this natural desire of man to find and obtain happiness. What do people pursue in order to be happy? Here are just a few things that people strive to obtain so as to be satisfied -money, sex, health, beauty, fitness, friends, promotion and security. Of course this list could go on and on, but you get the point. For the sake of brevity, we could summarise all these things into three categories: possessions, pleasure and popularity.
This first category refers to the desire to obtain, own or control something. This includes things like money, property, clothing etc. Many make it their ambition and longing to take hold of things so as to receive satisfaction and happiness. These objects or possessions become very dear to the individual because they are the channels in which their satisfaction flows.
This category is the obtaining of feelings that produce satisfaction and gratification. The means in which these feelings are experienced can come from biological needs and social needs. Biologically, things like sex, exercise and eating can create pleasure. On the social level, things like relationships and activities provide a sense of pleasure. The level of pleasure will depend on the individual and circumstances. This is a very subjective yet real aspect of experiencing a kind of satisfaction.
The final category includes things like social status, prominence, and power. Many have the longing to be known and respected. For some there is a security in belonging to a strong social network, whereas for others there is the longing to be in control. The notion of gaining popularity drives many so as to receive satisfaction.
It is true that the pursuit of possessions, pleasure, and popularity may lead to varying levels of satisfaction. However, it needs to be noted that this satisfaction or happiness does not provide permanent satisfaction. Why? The first reason is because all those pursuits are temporary in nature. You may have money, but it could be spent, stolen or given away. You may enjoy a sunset, but within minutes it is gone. You may look young and vibrant, but one day you will look old and tired. You may be popular, but then someone else will take your place. Because these pursuits are temporary, they cannot provide an individual with permanent satisfaction. Secondly, they all fall short of providing complete satisfaction. God has created man with eternal longings (cf. Eccl. 3:11), thus only that which is eternal can provide real and lasting satisfaction.
What then can truly and completely satisfy? Or to ask another question, where can real happiness be found? Because man is a being with an eternal destiny, only something that is eternal can bring real and lasting happiness – a kind of happiness that will not be diminished by circumstances and that is eternal in nature. The Bible speaks of those who are “blessed” or “happy”. What is it that makes someone able to receive such a designation? It is because they have taken hold of that which brings eternal satisfaction. What is it? David declared,
“Blessed is the one you choose and bring near, to dwell in your courts! We shall be satisfied with the goodness of your house, the holiness of your temple!“ (Psalm 65:4).
By means of God’s sovereign grace, true satisfaction can only be found in Him. Only in Him can we find forgiveness for all our sins (Psalm 32:1), only in Him can we possess lasting blessings (Eph. 1:3) and only in Him can we experience eternal pleasure (Psalm 16:11). Real happiness is found exclusively in the Lord God Almighty. “Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good! Blessed is the man who takes refuge in him!” (Psalm 34:8).