While we were visiting with our daughter’s family in Charleston, S.C., I had the opportunity to take one of my grandsons, Lars for a treat and just to chat man to man. We went to one of those famous ice cream places, called Marble Slab Creamery. I guess they are mostly in the south. Well, the ice cream is worth dying for. When we got our cup of ice cream I noticed the slogan on the cup. It read, “find happiness within.” I wrote the slogan on a piece of paper and told Lars that my next blob would be on this slogan.
So here you have it. First of all, how trival to think that we can find happiness within by enjoying a cup of ice cream. It is great ice cream, but, come on, it will not bring happiness. Could it be that this is a sutle appeal to our physical cravings to find satisfaction in ice cream among other things. While every man knows that the physical sensations of our bodily cravings will never satisfy us, if we are not careful, we can allow these sensations to give us temporary satisfaction, if our soul is not at rest with God. Jesus warns us in Luke 21:34, “Be careful, or your hearts will be weighed down with carousing, drunkedness and the anxieties of life, and that day will close on you suddenly like a trap.” The world will continually tempt you to find satisfaction through physical cravings. In living a soulful life, men need to be in tune with their bodies and the carvings of our bodies.
One spiritual writer has observed that, “In the biblical story of creation man is presented, first of all, as a hungry being, and the whole world as his food….Behind all the hunger of our life is God. All desire is finally for him” The psalmist helps us to remember this. Our appetites proper object is God. “Taste and see that the Lord is good; blessed is the man that take refuge in him” (Ps 34:8). God is to be the proper object of our spiritual appetite. “As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God” (Ps 42:1-2). Only God can satisfy. “For he satisfies the thirsty and fills the hungry with good things” (Ps 107:9). “I spread out my hands to you; my soul thirst for you like a parched land” (Ps 143:6). Only God can satisfy, no matter how great the ice cream tastes.
As for finding happiness within. To that I would have to say yes and no. First of all no, because that is the great trap of western culture. Especially in this age of self consciousness, we are trained to look within for happiness. This is what Leanne Payne calls “the disease of intropection.” I have suffered from this disease for years. I finally came to realize that this was pride that puts the focus squarely on me. It was not till I came to the realization that God in Christ lived within me, that I could begin the practice the presence of Jesus. Yes, happiness is found within, because that is where God dwells. He dwells in the deepest parts of my being. But it is not my task to go rummaging around in my soul, trying to find a happy state of existence. My focus is on Jesus. In Him and through Him I find life abundantly.
So one more word. Happiness is not something we can achieve or find on our own effort. Happiness if found in a person. It is the result of being a humble, loving follower of Jesus. Jesus came to give us a full life. “I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full” (John 10:10). Jesus never talked about happiness. But he did say that in him we would have joy. In his high priestly prayer he prayed for us. “I am coming to you now, but I say these things while I am still in the world, so that they may have the full measure of my joy within them” (John 17:13). Joy is a fruit of the Spirit. As we surrender and let go, joy will come into our consciousness awareness. I am finally learning something about joy in my life through letting go.