Take a minute and do a thought exercise with me. First, ask yourself “What is happiness?”
Now ask, “What makes me happy?”
You probably thought the first question was easier than second, because it asked for a definition, like ‘peace’ or ‘satisfaction.’ The second question asked for an experience, a memory. Now ask yourself a really hard question about that happy memory: “How did you know that what you were experiencing made you happy?”
This is a strange question, because it makes us ask how we know certain things will make us happy and others won’t. It cannot entirely happen through experience. For instance, would you be more happy if you won a car or lost your hand in an accident? You probably never experienced either of these, but you still know winning a car beats losing a hand.
You see, our culture, our parents, and our experiences teach us how to achieve happiness. For instance, Augustine said the greatest that happiness is to “rejoice in the truth.” I doubt many people say that today. So we need to ask ourselves where we learned what it means to be happy.
For most dudes American Pie paints our whole concept of pleasure. For the guys in that movie happiness is sex, girls, alcohol and partying.
Maybe you want to follow Jesus, but you only feel satisfied when you’re lusting or drinking or telling dirty jokes. I know the feeling, and I know the depression, anger, and anxiety that develops when this cheap imitation happiness fails.
We need a better teacher, we need someone to redeem our joy, to show us a new sort of happiness because our sinful hearts lead us astray, clinging to short empty pleasures: porn, pride and drunkenness.
We were made for a better, deeper joy, to enjoy God and his marvelous glory. Jesus, maker of all things, beautiful beyond your imagination, more loving than you can fathom, wants to fill you up with that joy. Don’t trade God’s glory for American Pie. Let Jesus redeem your joy.