Searching For Happiness

Pascal, the French thinker, said this about our continual search for happiness: “The present is never our end. The past and the present are our means, the future alone our end. Thus we never actually live, but hope to live, and since we are always planning how to be happy, it is inevitable that we should never be so.” Whether it’s the next meal out, the next weekend social, or the next vacation, we are discontent with the present and hope to find resolution in the future. We are longing for happiness, something that we will forever chase and never find by hoping for something in the future. For once we get there, there is always disappointment.

I have certainly felt this inward restlessness. I’ll never forget the first time I got the chance to go to Alaska on a fly-fishing trip. I had dreamed for so long of going there, even pouring over maps, imagining what the scenery was like. It looked so huge and forbidding, so unexplored and unbounded. My longing for adventure and the thrill of something new was certainly fulfilled there. I saw things I had never seen, wilderness that was truly wild: rafting down a swift stream to look for salmon, standing in another one as the salmon rushed upstream, and watching the sunset at midnight only to reappear at 3 AM after a brief time of dusk. But when I got back home, I realized that I had put way too much hope in the experience, hope for life and happiness. When I returned, I found myself faced with the same problems and struggles. I was disappointed.

I think to admit that we are all disappointed with life is difficult. It can sound like a pity party, or that we are complaining, or that we haven’t counted our blessings. Yet our desires never match reality here. In fact, we are supposed to be disappointed. 

What we do with this disappointment forms the tapestry of our lives. Most of us choose two common paths. One is to hook the longing to something here, making it an idol, bowing down to it in hopes that it will give us the happiness we were meant to have. The other is to push the longing down so far that we become hardened and embittered. We refuse to experience disappointment again. But both of these paths yield tragic results. Jesus offers a better way.

In Mark 13:32-37, He tells a short parable of a master going away and leaving his house in the hands of his servants, each with their assigned task. They are to work at their task and watch for the master’s return precisely because they don’t know when he will return. Jesus calls us to watch and wait for His return in just the same way. How do we learn to do this? By allowing ourselves to admit the disappointment of this life. We all long for happiness and a happy ending to the story of our lives, and Jesus is telling us that the happy ending is finally coming with His return.

Yes, we are in the middle of the story. Yes, there is evil and tragedy and terrible things that happen, but this is not the end. It’s as if He is saying: Don’t be discouraged about the evil you see in the world and in your heart. Don’t despair if suffering or disappointment comes your way. Don’t forget Me. I am going away—for a long time. But I am going to return and finish what I started. I will destroy all evil and heal every broken heart. So set your heart on your true home with Me. That is your true happiness. Trust me now and watch for My return.

Yes, Lord Jesus, come!