We’re all looking for happiness. No one is looking for misery, though it seems unavoidable that we will find it or that it will find us. Sometimes we even find it in happiness. Why is this?
Happiness is a by-product of something. You can never find it directly. If you think money is happiness, or that beauty is happiness, or that status or position is happiness, you will be disappointed. Happiness can be found only as a result of the right use or understanding of these things.
Focusing in even more, we could say that happiness is the by-product or the result of being approved. Jesus said, “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be filled.” (Matthew 5:6) Righteousness is a verdict of approval. To be satisfied with righteousness is to be happy because you’re approved. But whose righteousness or approval is Jesus talking about?
We seek for approval in our daily lives in a variety of ways and from a variety of sources. And we’re all deeply anxious over that approval. It’s hard to eat or sleep or work until we know whether or not we’ve been approved for something or by someone. But when it comes, all the happiness we find in these “earthly” approvals, while not being meaningless, is nevertheless fleeting. Why?
“None is righteous, no not one,” says Paul (Romans 3:10). No one is approved, no not one. As a result, there is an approval we all seek but can never earn: God’s approval. Because God created us and longs to approve and delight in us, and for us to delight in him, there is deep within the human heart a longing for his approval that no other approval can satisfy. We try time and time again, in place after place, but can never satisfy that hunger nor quench that thirst.
Is this God’s fault? Is he too difficult to please? No. The problem with the universe, with the world, is not in the good God who created both it and us to live in it. The problem with the universe, as Chesteron confessed, is me.
Because of sin we build our lives around things or people we believe will give us full and complete approval. We worship them rather than God, our lives and desires are distorted, and we fall short of God’s glory, the fulness and richness of life, relationship, and joy found in him alone. God cannot ignore this.
If you have a son or a daughter that is an addict, you love them with all your heart because they’re your son or daughter. Yet, because you love them there are things in them you don’t and can’t love. The lying, the stealing, etc.
You may reply that you still “fully approve” of them. But when you’re lying in bed late at night and you hear a sound, you’re mind is anxious wondering if they’re stealing something or sneaking out of the house. When you wake and they hug you and say goodbye for the day, you’re heart is heavy questioning if they’ve stolen something or just lied to you. You might love and approve of them, but you can’t deny that the relationship has been severed, the intimacy is broken, the relationship is not fully what it could be, not because you don’t love them, but because they are living in a way that prevents that from happening.
We are like this with God. He is a God of love, but there is much in us he can’t love and is angry towards. And because of our sin and how we live as a result, our relationship with God is altered, broken, separated. Furthermore, when Jesus speaks of “righteousness” he is speaking about the righteousness, God’s full approval of us, God fully approving of everything that we do. No one honest enough to admit it can say that every thought, every affection, every desire, every action could be fully approved by God. No one is righteous enough.
Then what do we make of Jesus’s pronouncement of blessing? We look not to ourselves but away from ourselves, to a righteousness we don’t already have. Until we admit that we’re the problem, we will never be satisfied. There must come a certain kind of desperation to our hearts, not only over sin, but over righteousness—for a righteousness not our own.
The truth and reality is that we will never be “good enough”. Many already experience that deeply, daily. They feel they were and never will be good enough. They feel that what they do is never and never will be good enough. We try and mask this, distract ourselves from it, satisfy it, but we can never rid ourselves of it. Furthermore, we can never by believing in ourselves truly bless ourselves and confer honor or delight or approval upon ourselves. Only another can bless us and, as a result, satisfy the longings in our heart for approval.
Jesus wasn’t just “good enough”. Jesus was righteousness and goodness itself. He was rejected on the cross at the deepest human level. “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” He endured this in our place, so that we could be approved at the deepest human level. We have been blessed by God with Christ (Ephesians 1:3).
Jesus sets you free from the chains and bondage of status, beauty, pleasure, wealth, wisdom, power. These are all things you get used to, live by and live for, in order to gain approval. Jesus breaks those chains, dispels their myths, exposes their lies, forgiving you of your sin and giving you his righteousness, therefore, bringing you into God’s full approval and delight forever.
All children want to be watched. They want to be delighted in and appreciated and approved. In such moments of innocence, there is no disguised selfishness or manipulation. To be child-like and enter the kingdom of God surely involves something like this. The realization that you are being watched and are approved and delighted in, in and through Jesus. You are a child of God, adopted by grace, brought in by Jesus Christ. You are at long last filled, “stuffed,” satisfied fully, blessed, happy.