You might have seen a widely-circulated story in late April concerning Courtney Sanford, the 32-year-old woman who was driving to work, snapping selfies and posting a status update to Facebook. After picking up her phone and telling her friends, "The happy song makes me HAPPY," she lost control of her car, drove across a grass median, and hit a large truck head-on. Sanford was pronounced dead at the scene.
This story was a tragedy. We know the dangers of texting/posting while driving, yet millions of Americans like Courtney post about the minutia of their daily lives while behind the wheel.
But this post isn't about texting and driving.
The song Courtney posted about is Pharrell Williams' song, "Happy," which was featured prominently in the soundtrack to the family-friendly animated movie, Despicable Me 2. The chorus ends with these lines:
(BECAUSE I'M HAPPY)
CLAP ALONG IF YOU KNOW WHAT HAPPINESS IS TO YOU
(BECAUSE I'M HAPPY)
CLAP ALONG IF YOU FEEL LIKE THAT'S WHAT YOU WANNA DO
The idea behind the song is, "You know what makes you happy. Do it." The bridge repeats over and over, "Can't nothing bring me down."
The problem? We humans are really bad at figuring out what makes us happy.
This is why, regardless of the warnings of history, we're drawn to the materialism, wealth, sexual conquests, recreational drug use, and much more that we do in our search for peace and happiness. But we also know the darkness that follows. We knew of that darkness even before we fell victim, because something in our society's moral center tells us, "Some things are just wrong."
That moral center was the Church.
Over the course of several decades, the Church's influence was weakened. The quest for prosperity and the competitive spirit that is seemingly built into the American psyche filled us with passion and insecurity, which only left us searching for something more. The secular humanists that once constituted a fringe group found a platform in Hollywood, the music industry, higher education, literature, and the pages of the major American newspapers. The desired effect took time, but it worked.
At some point in the 20th century, the "If it feels good, do it," philosophy went from being the counter-culture rallying cry of secularists to something that made sense to many who called themselves Christians.
Ministers who preached a redeemed life separated from sin were branded "legalists," to the point that muscular preachers in skinny jeans across the continent regularly avoid the topics of sin and Hell — subjects, by the way, that Jesus didn't feel a need to avoid. As a matter of fact, Jesus regularly spoke of sin, Hell, and destruction.
The church should be a place of healing.
The church should be the central point of grace and mercy in every city.
The church should be a place to find counsel and wisdom.
But the church could be, should be, must be a place of correction.
Jesus' teachings centered around correcting institutionalized ways of thinking. The Apostle Paul routinely corrected (i.e. blistered) the churches to whom he directed his epistles. And have you read Revelation chapter 2? Holy moly, the New Testament is harsh.
Jesus wants to save us, and give our lives meaning. He wants us to stand with confidence, bodily proclaiming the Gospel — the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. But notice His words in John 8:10-11 (NKJV):
When Jesus had raised Himself up and saw no one but the woman, He said to her, “Woman, where are those accusers of yours? Has no one condemned you?” She said, “No one, Lord.” And Jesus said to her, “Neither do I condemn you; go and sin no more.”
"I do not condemn you...GO AND SIN NO MORE."
If you want to be happy, begin eliminating the sin from your life. Jesus gave us the only answer for being held responsible for our sins, but never in the scripture did He give us a free license to commit unrepentent sin (See: Romans 6:15-23). If the Holy Spirit is meant to lead and guide us into all truth, then we must understand that TRUTH in the Scripture never leads us into the cares of this world.
That's why, when we are focused on ourselves, on worldly pleasures, on money, on sex, on temporary fulfillment, we always find ourselves desiring more. We inevitably look for something else — something greater, deeper, and lasting.
Do you want to be happy? Then love God more than anything.
Do you want to be happy? Then make choices that steer your life away from sin.
Do you want to be happy? Then bury yourself in God's Word. Discover who He is.
Do you want to be happy? Then rely on the One that created You.
I promise you: He knows what He's talking about.