Greg Laurie, senior pastor of Harvest Christian Fellowship in Riverside, Orange County, California, and in Maui, Hawaii, has had his share of personal difficulties in life. In one of the most tragic examples, this father and grandfather lost one of his own beloved sons to a car crash in 2008.
When he's spoken about that tragedy in his life, Pastor Laurie has said, among other things, "A faith that cannot be tested is a faith that cannot be trusted."
And that comment speaks to why — for him and millions of people all over the world — happiness on this earth is God-focused.
"Everyone wants to be happy, deep down inside."
During this season of Lent, as Christians all over the world look to the promises of Easter that lie ahead in this year of 2022, Pastor Laurie not only understands the nature of true happiness, he's also willing and able to share it with others — and to help others grasp it to the fullest extent possible.
"Everyone wants to be happy, deep down inside," he told Fox News Digital this week in comments he shared via email. "Even the Declaration of Independence prioritizes happiness: ‘We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.’"
Laurie — who has been holding his well-known evangelical events, Harvest Crusades, for more than 30 years — says that two things are true of every person.
He quotes British novelist William Boyd as saying "We all want to be happy, and we’re all going to die."
He also quotes Augustine on the topic: "Everyone, whatever his condition, desires to be happy."
"We can and should be happy, according to the Bible. We simply need to look for it in the right place."
He shares thoughts from the French philosopher and mathematician Blaise Pascal as well: "All men seek happiness. This is without exception."
Says Laurie, "You may be surprised to know that God wired us that way. We can and should be happy, according to the Bible. We simply need to look for it in the right place."
Too many people today, says Laurie, are looking for happiness where they won't find it — then wrongly "concluding" that happiness, for them, is not achievable.
Here are four areas, he points out, that people look to for happiness — and wind up disappointed.
1. Possessions. These can improve our lives, the pastor says, and make life more "comfortable"; but material possessions "won’t get us the satisfaction we crave. In Proverbs, the Bible says, ‘Just as death and destruction are never satisfied, so human desire is never satisfied’ (27:20 NLT)."
2. Appearances. Americans spend billions each year on cosmetic surgery, Laurie notes. "Some experts believe the rise of cosmetic surgery [today] is due to the selfie. We’re taking more photos of ourselves than ever before and using Photoshop, Instagram filters and other enhancements to project a desired image." Yet the "sad truth is no matter the work done or filters used, we'll always find someone more attractive than us."
3. Relationships. "We’re wired for relationship, for friendship, for intimacy. But if you think that a spouse or best friend will make you happy, then you’re in for a big shock (maybe even before the honeymoon is over)," he says.
Pastor Laurie believes that we're setting up other people "for failure" if we do that: "You're asking them to do something they never can — meet all of your emotional needs."
4. Pleasure. "Pursuing pleasure will never bring lasting happiness," he notes. "God blesses many pleasures in this life and calls them good. But there are also perverse pleasures that the Bible calls ‘the fleeting pleasures of sin’ (Hebrews 11:25)."
For some, sin can "be fun" for a period of time, he says — but before long, people understand that the "repercussions outweigh the pleasure. That is why the Bible says that she ‘who lives only for pleasure is spiritually dead even while she lives’ (1 Timothy 5:6). In practice, living for pleasure is one of the least pleasurable things you can do."
The secret of ‘real, lasting happiness’
Laurie says, "The only place to find real, lasting happiness is in a relationship with God."
He continues, "The people who know God are the happiest. Sadness has its place, especially when you’re mourning someone you love. It’s a process in which we have to cry out to God and deal with these things. But even amid sorrow, even while mourning, you can still have deep-seated happiness. It doesn’t come from what you have or don’t have. It comes from knowing God."
It is no wonder, he points out, that "2,700 biblical passages contain words like joy, happiness, pleasure, laughter, gladness, feasting and celebration."
Pastor Laurie shares this truth: "We will always be able to find someone or something to blame for our bitter outlook on life." But to find "true God-given happiness, we need to forgive those who have wronged us. We need to start thinking biblically. Then we will discover true and lasting happiness."
The pastor points to the life of the apostle Paul, who wrote the book of Philippians while he was living in Rome.
"The Rome of Paul’s day was a much different place," says Pastor Laurie. "Nero was in power, probably the worst of the Caesars. He became progressively bloodthirsty and took perverse pleasure in torturing and murdering followers of Jesus Christ."
"We can have great happiness despite our present situations."
He goes on, "Paul was living in chains, yet he was brimming with joy while writing to the Christians in Philippi. His case was coming up shortly, and he didn’t know how it would turn out. He might be acquitted. He might be beheaded. He originally wanted to preach in Rome, but he ended up as a prisoner there."
Even while in the "most miserable circumstances imaginable, he was rejoicing."
Concludes Pastor Laurie, "Paul’s life shows us that we can have great happiness despite our present situations."