Square One Part II: why you should give up on the pursuit of happiness

The pursuit of happiness was penned into the Declaration of Independence because the Founding Fathers understood that a continual search for happiness is fundamental to our existence. When you ask a parent what they wish for their child, inevitably they respond, "to be happy." If you ask an individual what they seek out of life, you'll often hear, "to be happy." And the pursuit of this elusive happiness is what motivates much of our lives. The fact that Jefferson preceded "happiness" with "pursuit of" indicates the constancy of the pursuit. Happiness is not easily gotten, yet is easily lost. We live each day in a constant pursuit of it because you can't hang on to that feeling by simply existing - you must fight for it every moment.

Put like that, the pursuit of happiness seems like we're fighting a losing battle doesn't it?

You wouldn't be wrong to think that... because it is. The brokenness of our world has sent us into a tailspin that we can't pull out of. Happiness isn't a certainty. Sometimes we can engineer it with a well-timed vacation or a perfect cup of coffee but on the whole, we aren't guaranteed it. Like most feelings, it can be swept away as quickly as a celebrity with the tiniest hint of conflict. The key, then, is to shift our focus.

If happiness is such a difficult battle, cut your losses by fighting for something else.

Something like joy. Joy is visceral emotion. It stirs you somewhere deeper than skin-level happiness and it sort of sticks there. It becomes a well from which other emotions are issued. During the darkest nights and the most downtrodden of circumstances, joy pierces the gloom with a peaceful assurance that all is well with our soul. All is well. It isn't fickle or circumstantial. It isn't conditional or earned. It's discovered in the purest of places - hope. When our perfect future is written in stone and our dreams will be surpassed and carried into infinity, our temperament is all but predetermined. We're hopeful. And hope gives way to a joy that can be shaken but never stolen.

13 Since we have the same spirit of faith according to what has been written, “I believed, and so I spoke,” we also believe, and so we also speak,
14 knowing that he who raised the Lord Jesus will raise us also with Jesus and bring us with you into his presence.
15 For it is all for your sake, so that as grace extends to more and more people it may increase thanksgiving, to the glory of God.
16 So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day.
17 For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison,
18 as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.
— 2 Corinthians 4:13-18