Truth Quest or Happiness Quest?

In life we often make fairly stupid decisions. They don’t appear stupid in the immediate but in the long-term they turn out to be rather stupid decisions that take us where we don’t want to go and never intended to be. 

Our problem rarely stems from a lack of information or insight. It’s something else. Something we don’t outgrow. Something that another academic degree won’t resolve. Our problem stems from the fact that we are not on a truth quest. That is, we don’t wake up every morning with a burning desire to know what’s true, what’s right, what’s honourable. We are on a happiness quest. We want to be – as in feel – happy. And our quest for happiness often trumps our appreciation for and pursuit of what’s true.

Now, I can understand why you may take exception to that. But stay with me for just a minute or two while I talk it through with you. 

Let’s start with the coffee drinkers – and I am one. What is that all about? My coffee of choice costs me about six dollars a cup. That’s ridiculous. Inexcusable in light of the needs in the world today. That’s $132.00 a month if you skip weekends. I could do a lot in the Kingdom with that amount of money invested monthly in a worthy cause. What’s wrong with me? Well, I’m on a happiness quest. And a Hot Mocha Venti coffee contributes to my happiness. 

If you have perfectly good clothes you never wear hanging in your closet but you plan to do a little shopping later this week, what’s that about? Why would you buy more clothes when you don’t wear the ones you have? Answer: Because when you wear something new and stylish, you feel better about yourself. Happy. When you put on last year’s model, you feel a bit last-yearish. Unhappy. And you don’t want to feel that way. So when you head to the mall, you aren’t simply shopping for clothes. You are in search of the happy feeling that comes with looking good.

Have you ever traded in (or accidentally dropped) a perfectly good cell phone for a newer model? Do you own an iPhone? Did you spend a ridiculous amount of time and energy trying to finagle your way out of your old contract so that you could get a specific phone your carrier didn’t provide? Have you carried two contracts for a while because you just couldn’t wait?

We could talk about a new car or truck. But, you get my point. As smart as we are and as aware as we are that life is connected and that decisions today shape the experiences of tomorrow’s we still don’t wake up in the morning in search of truth, insight, and enlightenment. We get up and do the things that make us feel happy. We are all on a happiness quest. And I don’t think that is necessarily wrong. Fortunately, there is a great deal of overlap between doing what’s right and wise and doing what makes us happy. 

You may love to exercise and exercising makes you happy. That is a good thing because exercise is good for you. But, on the other hand, chocolate makes you happy as well. Happier than exercise. Pursuing that happy-path every day would not be a good thing. It is these forks in the road that make thing complicated. It is these kinds of distinctions that make life a bit complicated. When happiness points in one direction while wisdom, truth, integrity, and common sense point in another, that’s when really smart people start doing really stupid things. That’s when the happiness quest becomes dangerous. 

This (the happiness quest) is the underlying reason we intentionally choose (make decisions) that will not take us where we ultimately want to go, regardless of our IQ. And, as believers and disciples of Jesus, you and I need to give serious thought to the decisions we make and the place that those decisions will take us. We need to determine which is more important in our life – truth or happiness. And, then make wise decisions taking us in the right direction to honouring God in all that we do and say, our entire lifestyle. Then we will embrace truth and actually find true happiness that can only be found in Jesus.