From the 1500s, the earliest recorded use of the word happiness was used in the context of what people gave and did for others. Giving to and serving others was what made a person happy!

Giving + serving = Happiness

The Declaration of Independence in 1776 understood happiness from this context. Every citizen was given the inalienable right to pursue happiness. This meant that in 1776 every citizen was given the inalienable right to pursue giving to and serving others. 

More than that, this pursuit, giving to and serving others, was considered everyone’s social responsibility.

Our modern understanding of the word happiness has a very different context. Now happiness is seen foremost as pleasure seeking and often in very hedonistic, self-gratifiying ways. Happiness has become a self-centered pursuit, defined and measured by, My Happiness. What do I get? Where’s my opportunity? What’s in it for me? I’m just doing whatever makes me happy! Live and let me live! Me. Me. Me. Me. I. I. I. I…

The problem with this self-focus is it never brings true and lasting happiness because our self-centered, self-seeking, self-gratifying ways are insatiable.

Side-note: A couple of weeks ago, I was flying in a private jet. How awesome! But, sitting on the runway, I noticed my jet seemed small compared to some of the other private jets. They dwarfed mine. I laughed as I thought, even in a moment like this, people’s sense of appreciation is easily replaced by a sense of never having enough. This continual lust for more is insatiable. It stops people enjoying what they have because they are always looking for (greedily grabbing for) more, bigger, better, even competing with others to get it. What a very unhappy trap.

Paul said, …I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want, Philippians 4:12-12 NIV.

True happiness and contentment are found in Jesus.

Jesus’ focus was others. The very purpose of Him coming to earth as a man was others. He spent himself giving to and serving others. He died and rose from the dead for others. There was no pleasure seeking in the cross, other than the pleasure of doing God’s will, and knowing that on the cross He paid the debt of sin for others.

When we place all our hope and expectation in Jesus we have eternity with Him to look forward to. This makes our now much easier, despite current circumstances–good or bad. And, despite our circumstances, when others are the focus of our life, giving to and serving others, we know we can trust God to take care of us. We know we don’t have to worry or be concerned about what is coming to us, God knows what we need. We can instead, live in obedience to God’s purposes–just like Jesusgiving to and serving others.

Therefore do not worry and be anxious, saying, What are we going to have to eat? or, What are we going to have to drink? or, What are we going to have to wear? For the Gentiles (heathen, pagans) wish for and crave and diligently seek all these things, and your heavenly Father knows well that you need them all. But seek (aim at and strive after) first of all His kingdom and His righteousness (His way of doing and being right), and then all these things taken together will be given you besides, Matthew 6:31-33, AMP.