Contentment is a condition of the heart that has no connection to the transient emotion of happiness, it can exist irrespective of situations and circumstances. However, our world seems not to seek for contentment, but rather, is absorbed in finding happiness. Recently I was startled by this statement from A.W. Tozer, “A selfish desire for happiness is as sinful as any other selfish desire because its root is in the flesh which can never have any standing before [Yahweh].” Is this true? I wondered. Is it selfish to want to be happy? And…what is happiness?
Happiness is not an emotion that can be ‘worked up’, or generated at will, but is an elusive quality of being that catches us unawares and warms both heart and day by its joyous unexpectedness. As a busy minister, tired to the point of exhaustion, I walked into our congregation’s retreat house one late-summer afternoon. Forever imprinted on my memory is a picture of dust motes swirling gently in sunbeams that seeped into a kitchen filled with peace, and the happiness that bloomed!
The United States Declaration of Independence states that everyone is entitled to "Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” [emphasis added]. Unfortunately, the concept of the ‘pursuit of happiness’ being a basic human right has become a global excuse for every kind of wrong-doing. Men and women have used it as a basis to indulge in all kinds of sin! In fact, Tozer went on to write, “I submit that the whole hectic scramble after happiness is an evil as certainly as the scramble after money or fame or success.” These are serious thoughts and I believe we would do well to consider them.
As Yom Kippur approaches, let’s examine our hearts, expectations and motives. True contentment and joy flourish in those whose lives are submitted to the Most High, and who have learned, “…how to be content (satisfied to the point where I am not disturbed or disquieted) in whatever state I am.” [Philippians 4:11 AMPC]
And finally, again from Tozer, “No man should desire to be happy who is not at the same time holy.”
Photo by GuentherDillingen