Why aren’t more Christians happy? That’s a good question, isn’t it? A friend of mine asked this very question as we were sitting at IHOP discussing Augustine’s City of God. I have been more than a little surprised at the centrality Augustine places upon happiness in the Christian’s life. It is his argument that the underlying desire of all men is to be happy. And that a man’s happiness can only be fully realized in the worship of the Triune God; in the fulfillment of the greatest commandment to love the Lord our God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength. But it doesn’t stop there. According to Augustine, the second commandment, to love our neighbor as ourselves, also has a direct relationship to happiness. If a man loves himself by pursuing his own happiness, then to love his neighbors is to seek their attainment of happiness as well. This, of course, means that to truly love oneself is to seek happiness in the worship of the Triune God. To love one’s neighbor, likewise, is to seek another’s happiness through their worship of this same God. Even horizontal love is to flow from and to God Himself.
This brings us back to the problem at hand. Why are we not happier people? The simple answer is that we do not know how to love rightly. We think loving ourselves involves things like self-image, personal goals, bucket lists, “me time”, or the like. The truth is we cannot love ourselves until we hate ourselves. We love, not by looking inward, but by looking upward.
The man who loves his life will lose it, while the man who hates
his life in this world will keep it for eternal life.—John 12:25
We think loving our neighbors is something done occasionally “out there.” We would never imagine that loving neighbors (and enemies) starts around the Lord’s table set with bread and wine; that it flows out around the family table set with grace and hospitality. We love, not by looking outward, but by looking upward.
“If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple.—Luke 14:26
Happiness can never be separated from worship. And worship can never be separated from this present life. We need to have eyes to see how changing diapers or cooking meals or taking a walk or balancing the budget is our spiritual act of worship. If Sunday worship would set the table for Monday through Saturday worship, we would find ourselves growing in happiness. We would not be happy in spite of the world around us. That would be the wishfulness of a fool. We would not be happy because of the world around us. That would be the worldliness of a pagan. We do not look past the world, nor at the world, but through the world. We begin to find ourselves happy between the lines of a story written long ago and progressing ever onward and upward to a glorious never-ending. And all great stories are meant to be enjoyed with others.