“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”
(No, Jefferson wasn’t just bad at grammar. It was trendy to Capitalize important Nouns 250 years ago; therefore, Happiness, not happiness.)
If you’re American, you might have memorized these lines from Thomas Jefferson, who drafted the Declaration of Independence in 1776. Basically that famous document was the birth announcement sent to the world that a new nation, a new republic, had been born.
But what are these “unalienable rights”? They are rights that you can’t be “alienated” from, denied or taken away.
And what is the “pursuit of Happiness”? Apparently, in this enlightened, if-it-feels-good-do-it world, Happiness can be anything you “feel” or “believe” makes you happy.
Pretty open-ended, but that’s our progressive world today!
It’s likely that the things that make me happy won’t make you happy, but there are some things we can agree on about Happiness:
. . . Everybody wants and pursues it.
. . . Everybody believes they deserve it.
. . . Not everybody achieves it.
. . . Even a happy person will have unhappy times.
There are all kinds of polls, blogs, lists and surveys about what makes people happy, what belief systems happy people adhere to, and how to make your life full of it.
There’s no question that people desire Happiness, and social media has made it look like everyone is happy all the time. That false sense of one’s own failure to be happy is, sadly, the reason people decide they can’t live anymore and take their own lives.
I’m heartbroken when I hear of those suicides, because I think, “If only you had known how deep, how immeasurable, how perfect and pure Jesus’ love is for you!”
No, there’s no way anyone can be happy all the time, but as a happy person, all I can do is testify. My story, my witness, my testimony is not something anyone can take away from me. It’s real and it’s raw but here it is:
I’m only happy because of Jesus Christ.
The most controversial figure of all time is the Savior of the world, and he actually didn’t come to earth to make people happy but to offer forgiveness and freedom from the bondage of sin.
But I promised you “raw.” That part of my Happiness journey was about going down a lot of dead end roads and the resulting guilt from that sin. But he forgave me, permanently disposed of that sin, wiped the slate clean and freed me from sin’s bondage.
Here are the reasons I was, I am and I will be happy even during excruciatingly difficult times:
- When I decided to let Jesus take control of my life, he filled me with his Spirit that is in charge of my comfort, peace, conscience and many other things.
- Surrendering my life to him has allowed me to be free of momentary troubles and taken the load of guilt off my shoulders.
- Although I don’t deserve grace and peace, I was given that gift 2,000 years before I even existed.
- Being a Christian and obeying the precepts and teachings of Jesus has taught me how to love and serve others.
- Serving others (which I rarely do well) and putting myself last on the list keeps me from being as self-focused as I would be otherwise.
- Number five contains two Bible commands that I am blessed and honored to obey because the Bible records the greatest love story ever told.
- While the world says Christians are provincial and full of hate, I can testify that those who have given their whole lives to him are the most loving and least hate-filled people in the world.
- Jesus’ message is about love for one’s enemies and a desire to make that love known to a world full of people who need hope and Happiness.
- When I have anxious thoughts, I can go to God with them and feel a supernatural peace that surpasses anything a non-Christian could ever understand.
- Since my life is not my own but God’s, I can claim victory over any problem of life, even the most devastating ones.
I have known Jesus and his provision for 45 years, and his presence in my life is tangible and real from the moment I awake until I lay down to sleep. It is not a feeling or belief but a presence that . . .
gives me chill bumps when I worship him,
causes the tears to come when I pray and
helps me love the people I serve.
How can you know more about such a message of hope? Find a red letter (Jesus’ actual words) version of the Bible and read the first four books of the New Testament. If you’ve heard that it’s an ancient, irrelevant book with a lot of dos and don’ts, prepare to be blown away by the love and grace you’ll find instead.
I’m not sure that Happiness is a “right”, Mr. Jefferson, but I know it can never be taken away when you’ve surrendered your life to Jesus Christ.
But I am sure that Happiness is a choice I made all those years ago and one that I encourage you to consider making today.