This past week in my World Civilizations class we were given an assignment that included watching performances by certain comedians and comparing them to Greek philosophers. One of the performances we watched was by comedian Louis C.K., who appeared on a late night talk show and performed what has now become his signature bit.
In this routine, C.K. (an outspoken atheist) makes fun of the fact that we have incredible technology such as cell phones and airplanes and a standard of living that is higher than it’s ever been, yet no one appreciates it. He makes a great point about the entitlement mentality of this generation, but although C.K. doesn’t say this directly, I’ve heard him say other things that cause me to think that he believes the world’s problems can eventually be solved through science and human evolution. This also seems to be the perspective that my history professor has embraced.
As I considered Louis C.K.’s quite accurate description of today’s world, the words of C.S. Lewis came to mind (C.S Lewis... Louis C.K… Confusing right!). C.S. Lewis says in Mere Christianity, “If I find in myself desires which nothing in this world can satisfy, the only logical explanation is that I was made for another world.”
The world’s analysis of humanity’s widespread, chronic discontentedness is that people just need to learn to be happy. Secular and religious groups alike proclaim that we have everything we need to be happy within ourselves, we simply need to access it. But if that were the case, it would seem that after thousands of years, humans would have become experts at being content, yet this is not the case.
In light of this gloomy reality, some may begin to theorize that true happiness is impossible and therefore doesn’t exist, but this theory has a problem. If true happiness doesn’t exist, we wouldn’t know that what we are experiencing is less than true happiness.
To illustrate my point, imagine that you grew up on a deserted island, completely isolated from technology. Then, at some point in your life, someone finds you and brings you to America. When you reach America, you see a car for the first time and climb in. What you don’t know is that the car doesn’t have an engine, so it won’t work. You would have absolutely no idea that anything was wrong with the car. You have never seen a car operate the way it’s supposed to, so you would never know that it was operating below its potential. Only someone who has a sense of how a car is supposed to work would be able to realize that it wasn’t functioning at its intended level. In the same way that an individual who has never seen a car wouldn’t be able to tell if it was broken, people who don’t have an instinctual knowledge of what true happiness should look like won’t know that they’re unhappy.
We all have a longing for true happiness built in to our DNA. Just as a car is created with the potential to move when all its parts are present, we have been created with the potential for true happiness. So if we are not experiencing true happiness, it would be common sense to conclude that something is missing. This epidemic of discontentment (which exists whether people admit it or not) shows that humanity is missing the foundational piece to happiness.
Through all of history we see men and women searching for purpose, meaning, and happiness, yet seemingly searching in vain. I think C.S. Lewis pretty much hit the nail on the head when he said, “Nearly all that we call human history… [is] the long terrible story of man trying to find something other than God which will make him happy.” If everything is amazing and everyone is still unhappy, the things of this world must inevitably be unable to satisfy the deep desires of the human heart. It is relationship with God alone that truly satisfies.
King David said in Psalms 16:11, “You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.” It is in the presence of God that we experience the fullness of joy. Again in Psalms 84:2 David says, “My soul yearns, even faints, for the courts of the Lord; my heart and my flesh cry out for the living God.” Whether people realize it or not, it’s Jesus Christ that they’re searching for, and it is in Him that we experience the joy that we were created for.
I learned something interesting about the Gospel of John recently. John starts his Gospel with, “In the beginning was the Word.” “Word” in Greek is logos. At the point in history when John was writing, philosophers and thinkers around the world had been debating for centuries about what the meaning of life was. Some philosophers said it was one thing, other philosophers said it was something else. They couldn’t come to an agreement about what really brought meaning and purpose, which both would ultimately lead to happiness. And at this general point in time, the philosophers had begun to give up and conclude that life was essentially meaningless. What was the word that these philosophers used to represent the “meaning of life”? It was the Greek word logos.
And at this dismal point in history, when philosophers had given up on meaning, here comes John, who says, “In the beginning was the Logos,” the meaning of life. Meaning, purpose, and happiness are not about a path, pursuit, or profession. The meaning of life is a Person, and His name is Jesus Christ.
To quote C.S. Lewis one last time, “God can't give us peace and happiness apart from Himself because there is no such thing.” True happiness and joy, the kind that is not swayed by circumstances and that does not fade with the seasons, exists in God alone and comes from God alone. As stated by Rick Warren, “You were made by God and for God—and until you understand that, life will never make sense.”
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