Guest Post: Happiness Isn't Your Purpose

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This guest post is contributed by Jericho Jones, Pastor to College Students and Young Adults at First West. Contact Jericho at

What is your life purpose?

“I want to be happy” is one of the most common responses. The Dalai Lama shares this belief saying, “the very purpose of life is to be happy”.

If the purpose of life according to many Americans is to be happy, the question is then, are Americans happy?

For the last nine years, the Harris Poll has been conducting a happiness survey on Americans over the age of 18. In 2016, the Harris Poll reports 31% of those surveyed were happy. In 2017, the survey reported a slight uptick in 33% of responders saying they were happy.

In an age where opportunity and resources are more prevalent than ever, happiness remains low in America. So why are we so unhappy in our culture? Are many Americans and the Dalai Lama just wrong about happiness? Why is it that in a country that states the “pursuit of happiness” as a guiding principle so many of us are unhappy?

A study by the University of California Berkeley psychology department showed that “the higher the respondent rated happiness as a distinct personal ambition, the less happy they were in their lives…”. Surprisingly, making happiness the goal of a person’s life makes it less likely for that person to experience happiness.

The Rolling Stones said it well, “I can’t get no satisfaction”.

University of Toronto Psychology Jordan Peterson in his course Maps of Meaning argues that pursuing happiness as a life purpose is foolish. He states that happiness is just one of the many emotions experienced throughout life.

2,400 years ago, King Solomon said there is a season for everything including “a time to weep, and a time to laugh”. Happiness is just one of these “seasons” of life. If happiness is not the proper goal for life, what is the right goal for life? Specifically, what does the Bible say makes up the right purpose for someone’s life?

Jesus said in the Gospel of Matthew “seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you”.

According to Jesus, seeking God’s Kingdom and righteousness is the purpose of life. In other words, Jesus is saying that if you seek God and His Kingdom you will get “all these things” or what you need in life, including happiness.

What Christ says we need in life fundamentally is a relationship with God, not happiness. By pursuing God, you find fulfillment and happiness. In a nation that seeks personal happiness, the Biblical answer to the happiness problem is counterintuitive: If you pursue God you will get Him and happiness. If you pursue your own personal happiness you will get neither God or happiness.

Chad McClurg