The Elusive Search for Happiness
EVERYWHERE you look, you see people trying to have a good time, trying to be happy. Is that wrong? Of course not. It is only natural to want to enjoy life. Yet the world still seems to be full of unhappy people. Why?
It is because many, in seeking pleasures, miss out on happiness. The two are not the same thing at all. Pleasures can contribute to happiness, but they can also destroy it.
When Pleasures Bring Happiness
Pleasure is defined as “gratification of the senses,” or “frivolous enjoyment or amusement.” Happiness is “a state of well-being and contentment.” It is a state of mind.
Hence, pleasures are temporary. But they can contribute to more permanent things. For example, the temporary pleasure of enjoying good food and drink can help to maintain something more lasting, good health. The temporary pleasure of being with friends can help to strengthen friendships. A happy marriage, solid friendships, and—to some extent—good health can contribute to that state of mind known as happiness.
On the other hand, pleasures can detract from happiness. If our pleasures are restricted merely to pleasing ourselves, they will quickly seem boring and pointless. For real happiness, having pleasure must also include giving pleasure. This point is made in the Bible. “Happiness lies more in giving than in receiving.”—Acts 20:35, New English Bible.
Additionally, pleasures must remain within proper boundaries. Otherwise, again, they can destroy our happiness.
1. FOOD AND DRINK
For example, heavy eating and drinking may bring temporary pleasure, but they have brought little happiness to . . .
● . . . the 40 percent of those dying in the prime of life who cause their own death by such things as overeating and excessive drinking, according to the British Medical Journal;
● . . . alcoholics and their families;
● . . . the tens of thousands killed and hundreds of thousands injured yearly in traffic accidents caused by alcohol misuse. In Germany alone, there were 2,930 deaths and 66,165 injuries in one recent year.
What are the “proper boundaries” for enjoying food and drink? Consider what the Bible says: “Do not come to be among heavy drinkers of wine, among those who are gluttonous eaters of flesh.” (Proverbs 23:20) Surely, any intelligent person can see the reasonableness of this advice recommending moderation.
Recreation, too, can be fun. It can bring pleasure for a while. But it has brought little happiness to . . .
● . . . the approximately ten thousand Americans who reportedly die each year because of “exposing themselves to some degree of danger under the guise of recreation”;
● . . . the thousands—and their families—who spend more time and money on recreation, including hobbies, than is wise or practical.
When recreation becomes an end in itself, it goes beyond its “proper boundaries,” and detracts from our happiness. A Bible writer commented wisely: “I may do anything, but that does not mean that everything is good for me. I may do everything, but I must not be a slave of anything.”—1 Corinthians 6:12, Phillips.
“Free sex” is tried by many in their search for happiness. But while immoral sex may bring temporary pleasure, it has brought little happiness to . . .
● . . . the multitudes of unmarried, pregnant teenagers, many of whom resort to abortions to dispose of unwanted babies;
● . . . the millions of innocent mates and children living in homes broken up by adultery;
● . . . the great number suffering from the modern pandemic of venereal disease.
The “proper boundaries” for sex are clearly described in the Bible: “Let marriage be honorable among all, and the marriage bed be without defilement, for God will judge fornicators and adulterers.”—Hebrews 13:4.
Once again, these boundaries are reasonable, although not popular in today’s self-indulgent world. Only in the context of marriage will the pleasures of sex contribute to real happiness.
What We See Today
Today, we see much time and money spent on the pursuit of pleasure. “Be good to yourself; you deserve it!” is the motto of many. Self-gratification is a driving force. Responsibility and unselfishness have taken a back seat, while, for the majority, serving God does not even come into the picture.
The results of a survey of a group of young people illustrate this. They were asked to describe their home on a typical Sunday. The survey concluded: “The matter-of-factness with which the vast majority . . . made no mention of anything that could be even vaguely viewed as a reference to fellowship with others, not to speak of fellowship with God was most disquieting.” This is especially true since it is God who has given us the best guidance for keeping our pleasures within reasonable limits and who knows what is needed to make us truly happy.
We are reminded of the Bible prophecy: “In the last days critical times hard to deal with will be here. For men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money . . . lovers of pleasures rather than lovers of God.”—2 Timothy 3:1-4.
“Lovers of pleasures rather than lovers of God” are not really happy people—they cannot be. And the fact that we see so many of them today is one of the proofs that we are living in the last days of this pleasure-mad society. Soon it will be replaced by a society where true happiness will be attainable to all under God’s direction. (Revelation 21:3, 4) This is the real meaning of what you see around you today.