Seek God, Find Happiness

René Malgo

The Psalmist says that fullness of joy is in His presence (Psalm 16:11). But what does it mean when we’re earnestly seeking after this blissful fulfillment in the Lord, and it seems nowhere to be found?

Augustine of Hippo knew, “It is the decided opinion of all those who use their brains, that all men desire to be happy.”

The great life skill is to search for happiness and fulfillment in the right place. Only one person can make us completely happy; namely, He who alone is perfect—God. In other words, “Seek God, find happiness.”

But that’s easier said than done. The valleys can become very dark when we’re reaching out for fulfillment from a God we can’t see, hear, or feel. Finding happiness in God is a struggle, not a walk in the park. Why?

We find an answer in one of the Apostle Paul’s prayers. He confesses the longing burning in his heart, revealing how we can still find true happiness despite all the struggles, afflictions, and darkness that may be plaguing us. He writes, “That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death; If by any means I might attain unto the resurrection of the dead” (Phil 3:10-11). 

What does he mean by that, and what does that mean for “Seek God, find happiness”?

Knowing Christ
All true and divine bliss begins with Jesus Christ. Anyone who wants to know what God is like needs to go to Jesus (cf. John 1:18). We are given insight into Him when He states, “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls” (Matt 11:28-29).

Paul says he wants to know Christ. “Seek God, find happiness” begins with our will. God has already said “I’m willing” to us through Christ. But it can be difficult to reply “yes” to God in return; we can’t see or feel Him, because He’s above everything that exists. He is God and we’re not. Many people imagine God as being on the highest rung of the ladder, so we approach Him as we would any other being. But that’s incorrect; He’s standing high above the ladder and surrounds it on all sides.

How large is the distance between an ant and a human? Very. Even a small child can crush an ant. The ant is far below us on the ladder of existence. And yet we’re on the same ladder: both humans and ants are creatures.

How large is the distance between an angel and a human? Most people would say that it’s very large, because we can’t see angels. They’re much more powerful than we are. But, interestingly enough, Hebrews suggests that in truth, we’re only “a little lower” than the angels (cf. Heb 2:9). Be that as it may, the distance still exists, and angels seem unapproachable because of their different nature. When the prophet Daniel saw an angel in its glory, his response was, “…there remained no strength in me: for my comeliness was turned in me into corruption, and I retained no strength” (Dan 10:8). And yet, we exist on the same ladder. Angels and humans are both creatures.

How large is the distance between God and a person? Even bigger? Maybe a trillion times bigger than the one between angels and humans? No. The distance can’t be measured because God and man aren’t even on the same ladder. He is Creator, we are creatures. The distance between us is infinite, an immeasurable and uncountable eternity. God is God, and that’s why it’s so difficult for us to recognize Him. He isn’t on our ladder at all. He simply exists.

Therefore, in order to find happiness, we have to say, “Yes, I’m willing.” I want to know this God that I can’t see. I want to know this God, with whom no being can compete. I want to know this God, that I cannot possibly manipulate or influence. I want to know this God, who is so different from me.

In practice, our assent means that everything we do (or don’t do) is done for the Lord’s sake. Our whole life should, like Paul, exclaim, “Yes, I’m willing!”

But how is that possible, when God is beyond all creation and all being? We usually know how to get other creatures to respond to us, but what about a God whom we absolutely cannot fool? Jesus said we shouldn’t babble in our prayers like the Gentiles, who thought that they could “persuade” God to eventually move in their direction for the sake of their many words.

Paul gives the answer in the context of a call to true joy: “Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things” (Phil 4:8).

In our life, in our day-to-day routine, we should strive for what is true, good, and beautiful. Why? Because that is God. He is love, goodness, peace, purity, and every perfect virtue. Our “yes” should be oriented toward this.

“That I may know Christ,” says Paul. And Christ isn’t just an idea, an ideal, an abstraction, or a lofty thought. No, He is everything that is true, right, pure, lovable, appealing, and worth living for; everything that is considered virtue. That’s why we want to say with our whole being, “I’m willing.” Not just because we want to become better people; because we want to gain what’s better.

The bliss of eternal life consists of knowing the perfect One: God the Father and the Son Jesus Christ, in communion with the Holy Spirit (cf. John 17:3). Knowing is more than familiarity. It is union, intimate community—a connection that permeates our whole being. Jesus Christ is the One who tells us about the invisible God in heaven, where bliss is: being hidden with Christ in God. The more we come to know Christ in practice, and not just in theory, the happier we will become.

The Power of His Resurrection and the Fellowship of His Suffering
However, it’s impossible for us to search for God perfectly, and to find happiness, in our current state. We often fail, stumble, and make mistakes, even when we don’t want to. With our limitations, we simply don’t have the strength to dwell nonstop with a boundless God. It’s like a bow that is continuously drawn: it will break under the tension. It is the same with us in our imperfection, when we are constantly having to reach for perfection.

We just can’t endure it; we’ll break (figuratively speaking). Death’s poison is raging within us, but God is the source of life. Death and life can’t coexist. As long as we are earthly, we cannot stand before the heavenly. That makes perfect bliss inaccessible to us in this body.

That’s why it’s so important to know Christ. Deity joined with humanity in Him. He became what we are, so that we could become what He is. He devoured death from within for us. He rose from the dead on the third day. As God-man, He lives forever. He is the founder of a new humanity that has conquered death and is joined with God. He wants to give us this power: the power of His resurrection. He wants to free us from death and everything that separates us from God.

This is why Paul also prays to see the power of His resurrection. This power that raised Him will make our hearts suitable for perfect bliss. Christ is everything to us: “But of him are ye in Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption” (1 Cor 1:30).

Wherever we go or remain, we appeal to Christ and the power of His resurrection. And yet, we quickly realize that we’re just not feeling this bliss that we’ve been awarded. Darkness remains our confidante (cf. Psalm 88:18), even if we’re saying—even screaming—with our whole essence, “I’m willing!”

This brings us to the great and terrifying mystery of the Christian faith: the Cross. The God who leads us to happiness doesn’t reveal Himself through any Jesus, but through Jesus who was crucified (cf. 1 Cor 2:2). On the Cross, we see what the invisible God is really like, in all His glory (cf. John 17:1ff.). That means, as Paul prayed, we know our Lord in the fellowship of His suffering.

Fellowship is more than a connection; it requires participation. Whoever wants to gain more of God (whoever increases in fellowship with Him) will also receive a greater share in his Lord’s sufferings.

When Jesus died on the Cross, His disciples were devastated. They had imagined their incarnate God’s journey very differently. After His resurrection, Jesus appeared to two of His disciples and explained to them why He had to die. But they didn’t recognize Him. The eyes of these two men were only opened to their Lord when He was sitting at the table with them and breaking  bread.

This fellowship with the breaking of bread is an illustration of the Lord’s sufferings. It shows that our eyes are opened to Him when we suffer with Him. It’s when we’re in the dark valley that He is with us. It is in the presence of our enemies that He prepares a table for us. “For which cause we faint not; but though our outward man perish, yet the inward man is renewed day by day. For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory” (2 Cor 4:16-17).

God works mysteriously for our happiness through the crosses He places on us. He calls us to be brave if we want to know Him for who He is. Paul accepted this call; not halfheartedly, but wholeheartedly. He didn’t stop at the power of His resurrection (which we’d love to have), but further prayed for fellowship with His sufferings. 

Being Conformed to His Death 
When we’re seeking God, every experience serves one purpose: we are to live and die with the Son of God, as Paul says: “I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me” (Gal 2:20a).

He prays for fellowship with his Lord’s sufferings, so that he may be conformed to His death. Only when we die can we live. Finding happiness means giving up oneself and being crucified with Christ. But why?

The less-than-thrilling answer is sin. Sin is missing the target. Sin is the sting of death. Sin is the absence of all that is good, true, and beautiful. Sin is what poisons our whole being. We do not develop to our full potential, because we are bound and restricted by sin.

All humanity is plagued by sin, like an incurable, contagious, deadly disease. We become its victims and perpetrators in equal measure. God cleanses us of this sin whenever we ask; that’s what Jesus died for. His blood flowed so that sin’s consequence—death and separation from God—would be destroyed and no longer threaten us.

Despite the purification, redemption, and sanctification that God gives us freely and without reproach, sin’s traces remain in our body. It’s like having a doctor who can cure us of a terrible cancer. He’s glad to do it, and 
at no cost! The cure is certain, and there will never be a bill to pay. But we still have to undergo the painful chemotherapy. The sick cells must die in order for us to be restored to life.

When we seek God and find happiness, salvation causes us to undergo a similar process. God is doing work in us to prepare us for His unspeakable glory. That is the way through the desert: into the darkness, where He becomes incomprehensible to us and where His love wounds us so that we can be healed.

Dying isn’t pretty. It isn’t associated with comforting feelings. We naturally defend ourselves against it. We rant that we don’t understand the world anymore, when we experience death in our lives by losing a loved one. But the fruit of eternal life blooms from that very painful process.

Hebrews speaks of the saints of God. Some of them knowingly accepted suffering and death, and rejected deliverance for a better resurrection. God transforms us here on earth for eternity with Him, for the perfect life in the resurrection. The more we embrace His work in us, the bigger He in turn makes our vessel, with which we’ll see and receive Him in unspeakable glory. Ultimately, this means that God’s love wounds us in order to increase our happiness.

Paul writes of the transformation that God wants to accomplish in us: “But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord” (2 Cor 3:18).

These wonderful words weren’t written in a vacuum. Afterward, the apostle begins to speak about the fellowship of suffering with Christ (cf. 2 Corinthians 4:7-10). It is there we behold the glory of the Lord with bare faces, as in a mirror. That is the mysterious logic of the Cross.

The fact is, everyone who loves God and seeks Him will also see Him. Every vessel in heaven will overflow. But some who courageously accept the fight during their time here on earth, are making their vessels bigger than others. They will get more from God. That’s what the fellowship of His sufferings means, and being conformed to His death. The more we recognize Christ and His power now, suffering and dying with Him, the more we will live, rule, and be glorified with Him for eternity (cf. Rom 8:17-18).

Therefore, don’t be discouraged if you’re not finding happiness immediately; if your desire for God isn’t being fulfilled the way you’d imagined it would; and if you even have to exclaim, “Darkness is my closest friend” (Ps 88:18, NIV). The resurrection’s power leads you into fellowship with His sufferings, where you ask yourself “Why?” and feel compelled to lament with the bride in Song of Solomon:

“I opened to my beloved, but my beloved had turned and gone. My soul failed me when he spoke. I sought him, but found him not; I called him, but he gave no answer. The watchmen found me as they went about in the city; they beat me, they bruised me, they took away my veil, those watchmen of the walls. I adjure you, O daughters of Jerusalem, if you find my beloved, that you tell him I am sick with love” (Song of Sol. 5:6-8, ESV).

If you have opened the door to your beloved, and want to only act on His Word; if you can’t seem to find Him; if instead the watchmen on the walls beat you, then think of this prayer from the Apostle Paul and its deep meaning: “That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death; If by any means I might attain unto the resurrection of the dead” (Phil 3:10-11).

Midnight Call - 03/2022

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