Is The Purpose of Life to be Happy?

Happiness2Leo Rosten, the Polish born Jewish writer once wrote, “The purpose of life is not to be happy. The purpose of life is to matter, to be productive, to have it make some difference that you lived at all. Happiness, in the ancient, noble verse, means self-fulfillment and is given to those who use to the fullest whatever talents God or luck or fate bestowed upon them.”

Really? Where did Rosten ever get that idea?

Rosten may have been paraphrasing, or even copying Ralph Waldo Emerson who wrote, “The purpose of life is not to be happy. It is to be useful, to be honorable, to be compassionate, to have it make some difference that you have lived and lived well.”

I believe Rosten is right. But it goes back beyond either Rosten or Emerson. The American myth is that everyone should be happy all the time. Successful. Enjoy the good life.  Live in pleasure.

In an article in Psychology Today, Dr Susan Krauss Whitbourne, made this cultural observation:  “Happiness is becoming the new religion in social science.  Out with the psychoanalysts, in with the hedonists.  Instead of finding out what makes you ‘tick,’ the ‘High Priests of Happiness’ merely seek to tickle your fancy.  The new worship of happiness, ushered in by the positive psychology movement, emphasizes all the ways that we can maximize our feelings in moments of joy, elation, and pleasure.”

The truth is that God is more interested in significance. Jesus said, “My purpose is to give life in all its fullness” (Jn. 10:10). C. H. Parkhurst wrote, “Purpose is what gives life meaning.” And purpose goes beyond the here and now. It is more than the temporal. Or the temporary. It has to do with the eternal.

It is said of King David in the Old Testament. “For when David had served God’s purpose in his own generation, he fell asleep; he was buried with his fathers and his body decayed. (Acts 13:36). Was David’s life always happy? Joyful? Jubilant? Absolute not! A cursory reading the Psalms reveals his challenges. Problems. Hurts. And even at times, depression. But he served God’s purpose.

A full life, a fulfilled life, a life that really makes a difference is one that is God-centered. It is a life that is focused on the great commandment and the great commission. It seeks a higher calling, a more noble purpose, a greater good.

I pray today, on this Lord’s day, each of you will think about God’s will for your life. I wish for you all the happiness that life can offer, but more than that I hope that you can find and fulfill the Divine purpose for which you have been created by God.

–Ken Weliever, The Preacherman


Filed under Happiness, Life, Purpose

14 responses to “Is The Purpose of Life to be Happy?

  1. Yes, the time is now here-“For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear.” 2Tim 4:3

  2. Your post is great food for thought! Knowing your God-given gifts of ministry may work toward this idea of a meaning-filled life. (Romans 12 & 1Corinthians) If we’re inside God’s will for our lives, then we’re more likely to avoid the “I need to be happy” trap.

  3. I don’t believe our purpose in life is to be happy. I believe our purpose is to fulfill God’s plan for our lives. God doesn’t promise us an easy life, he promises us a full life.

  4. Love this! Contentment/joy is different than happiness, but I’m afraid that most people don’t make the distinction.

  5. I never ever wanted to become divorced, but had no choice due to abuse and adultery on his part. Being happy only started to become a possibility after I was away from his drama and secret lives. I am now using the challenges I went through to guide others through separation, divorce and co-parenting.

  6. Pingback: Are You Happiness Driven? Or Joy Filled? | ThePreachersWord

  7. Pingback: Is it Right? Or Just Seem Right? | ThePreachersWord

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