After God had made all other creatures, He created man, male and female, with reasonable and immortal souls, endued with knowledge, righteousness, and true holiness, after His own image; having the law of God written in their hearts, and power to fulfil it: and yet under a possibility of transgressing, being left to the liberty of their own will, which was subject unto change. Beside this law written in their hearts, they received a command not to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, which while they kept, they were happy in their communion with God, and had dominion over the creatures.Westminster Confession of Faith 4.2
Happiness comes at a premium today. It’s hard to find. Hard to hold onto. With the ubiquity of perfected life on social media and cynicism by an all-too-well-informed society finding one another’s embrace, happiness is even harder to sell.
We in the church see the fleeting happiness of the world––the crumbling mansions and marriages, the super-fast Ducati’s and destruction, the high pay checks and hardly-present peace. In fact, we’ve come up with a trick to avoid a bit of this cacophony. We play our trick by saying that happiness and joy are two separate things! That’s right. God doesn’t want us happy… no. He wants us JOYFUL! [Hint: 1.) There’s no biblical basis for this bifurcation. 2.) If you were to lock yourself in a dark room, alone, and describe “Joy,” it’s going to sound an awful lot like “Happiness.”] Of course, we know this is a trick because, when the theologians at Westminster wanted to describe humanity in its pre-fall state, they didn’t say joyful, or divinely delighted, or any other such nonsense. No. “Happy.” That’s it. Man, male and female, was happy.
Today, another strike is taken at our concept of happiness: the source of it. We have spouses, kids, jobs, hobbies, ministries, community groups, causes, charities, lemonade stands… so many things which vie for our attention, yes, but, more than that, our adoration. Like our age-old enemy, they all whisper, every single one of them, even the lemonade stand: “Come, worship me, and I will give you all your heart’s desires!” We seek happiness in possessions––having the right things, people, relationships, titles, appointments… We want what’s under us to build us up and make us happy. We desire dominion. Some churches talk about dominion, but many do so in a worldly way. They offer quick fixes to attain fast results to provide maximum dominion and, therefore, superb happiness.
But, let us pause and reflect on just what the theologians at Westminster summarized as Scripture’s teaching on our pre-fall situation. Yes. Man, male and female, was happy. The full section is: “…they were happy in their communion with God…” The point of satisfied living, the situation that made them happy, was communion with God. They were utterly content with their position in Him.
Here’s a way to consider it: “Are you happy because of your position, or your possessions?” This is the crux of the matter that causes us to play that little trick on ourselves. HAPPINESS is what the WORLD wants and wants to give YOU, but GOD gives us JOY!! True, technically, but not in the way you think. When we understand Joy and Happiness to be the same thing (Which they are! Don’t fight me on this. Check out what Jesus is doing in the Beatitudes.), we see that the issue is not what we call it, but from whence it comes. Simply, are you happy because of what you have, fulfilling your sinful desires? Or are you happy because of who has you, your loving, perfectly holy Creator and Heavenly Father? Dominion, as the Westminster theologians summarized from God’s Word, is an afterthought. The Scriptural priority is an obedient walk with the Lord which can only be summarized by that glorious word: “Communion.” We are to pursue this walk with him by the means he gives us: the Word, the Sacraments, and Prayer.
As we make our way through this section of the Confession, considering just what we are, may it be of encouragement to you to discover the purpose for which you were made. Dominion was granted to us. We are to reign over the earth and, particularly, over our little kingdoms the Lord gives us to tend. But, let that be the afterthought, for it is not the primary purpose for your life. The first and most important reason you exist is to find happiness in God, in Him alone. As you review this paragraph, you will see just a sampling of the glorious realities of our lives before the fall, those realities that were warped, melted, and marred. We pursue a distorted version of those things in our sinful flesh, only to find them as satisfying as the sands of the Sahara. Return to God first. As He renews your mind and soul, as He restores your knowledge, righteousness, and holiness through reviving His image in you, only then will you begin to find true happiness, for you will be finding it in the Person who was the source of it all along: your Creator. Pursue Him. Seek to be positioned in Him. After that, your possessions will be something that you can use to express your happiness in Him.
Of course, Jesus said it best. “But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you” (Matthew 6:33). Seek Him. And be happy.