by Vicki Courtney, from Rest Assured

Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. When our Founding Fathers dipped their quill pens in inkwells in 1776 to draft the Declaration of Independence, they declared these unalienable rights as our legacy, endowed to us by our Creator. In doing so, they sounded the gun at the start line of a rat race that would span the generations for centuries to come. The early patriarchs of our country made an assumption, and no one questioned it: personal happiness is the highest reward this earthly life can offer. However, if you examine the phrase more carefully, you’ll see that the assumption operates on a faulty model.

Happiness is elusive and coy, nothing more than a temporary, fleeting emotion. Even if captured for a moment, happiness cannot deliver on its promises.

To pursue happiness is akin to grasping at the wind, hoping each fistful we seize will bring the lasting satisfaction we crave in our aching souls.

You can exhaust all of your time, energy, and money in its pursuits, only to be left thinking there’s got to be more. Anytime we attempt to fill our souls with temporary fillers to satisfy a permanent longing, the result will always be unrest.

In Colossians 3:1–2, Paul exhorted believers to “seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on the things that are above, not on things that are on earth.”

The Greek word for “seek” is zētĕō, and it means “to worship (God), or to plot(against life); to desire, endeavour.” Let that definition sink in for a minute. It beautifully describes the tug-of-war raging in our souls on a daily basis. One Bible commentary notes, “Things on earth are here set in opposition to things above. We must not dote upon them, nor expect too much from them, that we may set our affections on heaven; for heaven and earth are contrary one to the other.”

The Greek word for “set” is phrŏnĕō, which means “to exercise the mind, to interest oneself in; set the affection on.” Paul was not encouraging a disdain for material things. Every physical thing God created is good. Instead, Paul was warning believers against affections other than God that become the center of our worship and our lives.

Is Christ your primary affection? Do you exercise your mind and set your affection on Him daily? Setting your affection on Christ is not a one-time exercise or a super-spiritual gift that magically descends on us when we pray to receive Christ. Believers must consciously and continually decide to make Him their primary pursuit and fight hard to keep Him there.

In John 10:10, Jesus declared, “I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.”

While we tend to look to the world to find happiness and a superior life, Jesus was saying in essence, “I have the answer. Look to Me. Follow Me. What I’m offering is far superior to the off-brand, knock-off version of happiness the world is offering.” If we make anything other than Jesus Christ our primary affection, our souls will ache for something more. And that’s a good thing.

The something more we long for is Jesus.

Why engage in the exhausting pursuit of happiness when we can have the abundant life instead?

Have you taken Jesus up on His offer?

Adapted by Vicki Courtney from Rest Assured: A Recovery Plan for Weary Souls, copyright Thomas Nelson.