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It was recently reported that only 14% of the world’s population considers themselves to be very happy. We live in a world where many are seeking happiness, but so few seem to find it. We work ourselves to the bone, travel across the world, or spend hours consuming entertainment all in the pursuit of happiness. One place where we seem to find happiness is in Central Oregon at Smith Rock state park. While hiking with my family there, I thought about a Biblical principle on happiness and how it could apply the thrill seekers captured by Smith Rock’s enchantment. Smith Rock is a world renowned wonder, attracting onlookers from every direction. It’s a place to hike, bike, or climb and escape from normal life. Is this enough to find happiness?
People look up at the towering cliffs and aspire to reach the top. They climb and strain for hours, exhausting themselves to reach the coveted view at the peak. From there you can see the rivers and ranches below, along with all the surrounding mountains of the cascade range. Does this give happiness to the observers? What if they have no one to enjoy it with? What about those who try halfheartedly, but don’t reach the top, do they get any joy out of it? Most importantly, will seeking happiness for happiness’ sake bring our heart’s desire, or must we have a deeper motive on our journey?
In Psalms 119 verses 1-2, God gives us a very important principle about happiness, one which can help anyone on their journey, not just those climbing up smith Rock. In this verse, happiness is given to those who have a specific heart and a specific conduct in life.
“Blessed are those whose ways are blameless, who walk according to the law of the Lord.
Blessed are those who keep his statutes and seek him with all their heart”
Our modern English definition of blessed tell us the word means to be superlatively happy. Literally, the highest form of happiness that could be achieved. This is what God wants to give a certain type of seeker. The verse could read “Superlatively happy are those who live by God’s rules. Superlatively happy are those who keep his word with all their heart”. That’s a tall order! But remember, this is God the creator of the universe, both showing us the path to happiness and in his power enabling us to follow that same path.
The first condition then is to follow his law and keep his word, conducting ourselves accordingly. This is similar to those who follow the climbing routes and hiking maps at Smith Rock. Some ignore the signs and try to make it on their own, ending up with heat exhaustion, getting lost in the dark, rattle snake bites, or worse terrible falls from the high cliffs. You have to read and follow the map to reach the top. It’s the same way with following God’s word and discovering the happiness it produces.
The second condition is to seek the Lord and follow his ways with all our heart. What’s something you’ve done wholeheartedly? Many at Smith Rock have journeyed across the world, spending time, money, and investment in gear, just to put all of their energy into the epic climb. It’s wholehearted. Most of us have one or two priorities in life that we’d say we give our whole heart to. Perhaps it’s a sport, a career, or a spouse. I know in my own marriage that my wife wants 100% of my heart, not just 50/50 or even Stevens, only showing her the love that she first shows me. God is asking for the same thing, not 50% of our hearts, but 100%. 100% happiness is found when we seek God with 100% of our hearts.
When you finally reach the top of Smith Rock, you look around at the orange setting sun, the soaring eagles, and the ant-sized cars below. You smell the sage and juniper. You pull you smartphone out to try and capture the feeling, but you realize that pictures don’t do it justice. This has to be experienced. So what if I claim to make it up there and see it for myself, that only suits my own vanity. I’ve had to remind myself of that, when I get ahead of my family on the hiking trail. It’s meant to be enjoyed with their company, their laughter and conversation. Otherwise, what’s the point?
Why do you want to seek happiness and blessing from God? Is it about the destination and reward or the journey and relationship? If I only sought God to get into heaven and prosper in life, it would be a pretty selfish motivation. Yes, the psalm says we will be blessed, but it doesn’t say to seek blessings with all of our heart. It says to seek God. Happiness is the byproduct of a relationship with God, not the goal.
It’s about enjoying the relationship, not racing to the last chapter. Think about dancing with someone you admire, looking longingly into their eyes. The point isn’t to race through the song as quickly as possible, trying to get to every corner of the room and cover all of the square footage in time. The point is to enjoy the dance, captivated with your partner.
Surrounding Smith Rock is a large retirement community. People who’ve lived their lives to retire, racing through grade school, college and careers, to finally arrive here alone. They’ve come to a beautiful destination, but they don’t always discover the community or purpose here that gives meaning to the retirement experience. As I make conversation on the trails, I have found some retirees here who are choosing to move away from the splendor of Central Oregon. They move away to be close to grandkids or family. Yes, they’ve found incredible happiness and beauty in Bend, but whats’ the point if they can’t enjoy it with others?
Getting to the top of the Smith Rock climb, or racing to the end of the Christian story isn’t the point of the journey. If it were, then the successful would be those who could dash through life the fastest. If you’re seeking happiness, and considering finding your place in God’s story, then consider God’s wager of being blessed from Psalms 119; 100% happiness as a byproduct of 100% seeking. Are you willing to pursue God and follow his word with all of your heart?
If so, please follow along with the rest of this series on how to have a relationship with God, covering Biblical principles and relating them to the nature around us!
Seeking God Part 3: Where to find God