Leona Lewis on the pursuit of happiness

(Link to embedded video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7Mt7Nfq1CJc)

I must say that I really like ‘Happy’ by Leona Lewis. It’s a beautiful song and Lewis’ vocal performance is stunning; it might well be my favourite pop song of the year. But I think it’s a good song not just because it sounds nice, but also because of the message that it conveys.

The song begins with the protagonist saying that her life isn’t the way it should be, for she wants to be happy but finds herself ‘so unhappy’. In doing so it admits that life isn’t all hunky-dory, that the world could and should be a better place. The song then goes on to say that we have two choices: either to ‘stand by the side’ and ‘watch this life pass me by’ or to pursue happiness in romance. In the song, the protagonist refuses to accept the former, so she runs after happiness in a romantic relationship. If you watch the video clip on YouTube you will see that all seems to be going well until it is revealed at the climax of the song that her lover has rejected her to be with another woman.

This is where the song really shines, for it exposes the impotence of romantic relationships as the ultimate source of meaning and joy in life. It unmasks the lie that says ‘once I find the guy/girl of my dreams, I’ll be happy.’ This is a theme which is repeated, either explicitly or by inference, in many of the other tracks on the album. (If you’re interested: ‘Can’t Breathe’, ‘Brave’, ‘Outta my head’, ‘My Hands’, ‘Love Letter’, ‘Broken’, ‘Naked’ and ‘Alive’).

Despite being a beautiful song, the story that ‘Happy’ tells is in some ways a tragedy. The protagonist sees the powerlessness of romantic relationships to provide ultimate happiness and satisfaction, but she knows no other way to live her life. This is the cry of the chorus: ‘So what if it hurts me? So what it I break down? So what if this world just throws me off the edge, my feet run out of ground.’ Sadly, the song ends with this tension unresolved, the question of where to find happiness unanswered.

Where do you look for happiness?

Each of us has an answer to the question of where to find happiness and satisfaction. Even if it’s not one we’ve put into words before, it’s there somewhere deep inside us, often more obvious in others than in ourselves.

Some common answers are relationships, possessions, religious observance and experiences. Although each of these things provide some temporary satisfaction and happiness, many people, if they are honest, as this song is, will admit that none of them give us what we really long for. Like the late American billionaire John D. Rockefeller, who said, ‘just a little bit more,’ in reply to the question of how much money is enough, we find that these things never truly satisfy.

So why do we desire what we cannot find? Is life just a great tragedy, a cosmic joke? Should we be bothered that we want what we seem to be unable to get?

C.S. Lewis’ answer was this:

‘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.’

This is the answer that the Bible gives as well. The Bible speaks of a relational God existing in three persons — Father, Son and Spirit. The Father spoke the universe into existence through and for the Son, just because he loved him. It speaks of an eternal relationship of love between Father, Son and Spirit. It speaks of mankind being made in God’s likeness, to know God and to worship him.

But it also speaks of mankind’s rebellion against God in looking for satisfaction outside of a relationship with him. This happened when the first man and woman believed the lie that they would be better off doing things their way rather than God’s. In doing so they rejected the kingship of God over their lives and chose to make their lives into their own little kingdoms. The result of this was separation from God.

One of the symptoms of this separation is what is described in this song: a longing for happiness and satisfaction that is met by nothing in this world. Because we have forsaken God, who is the fountain of living waters, we find ourselves perpetually thirsty. Like someone shipwrecked on a raft in the middle of the sea, we try drinking the saltwater around us, but we find it only makes us thirstier than we were before.

If the Bible’s story ended there, it would be no less of a tragedy that the story told by ‘Happy’. But it doesn’t; the eternal Son became a man, lived, died and rose again to life to change the course of history forever. When he was alive, Jesus said, ‘if anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink.’ He could say this because he was about to remove the barrier between God and us by dying to take upon himself the punishment we deserved so that by trusting in him we might have a restored relationship with God.

Once the sin that separates us from God is dealt with, the way to God is open: we can now know God and worship him, just as he intended from the beginning. As we do so, we will find that knowing happiness and satisfaction in this life is no mere pipe dream, for we will be in relationship with the one of whom King David wrote of in the Psalms, ‘you make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.’

What do you think of ‘Happy’ by Leona Lewis? Does your source of happiness deliver?


One Response to “Leona Lewis on the pursuit of happiness”

  1. Well, like I asked you since the 1st time we met and become friends: “What is the true satisfaction of life?” and I provide an answer: “I don’t know”.

    You provided your answers logically and emotionally, which is good. However, you answer it subjectively.

    Why there are Christians still unhappy, not truly satisfied, although they believe in God, the Holy Trinity, trust in Him and tried their entire life to restore their relationship with God?

    Well, I do have an answer to the question and I think the real answer lies within us, but I’m unsure whether this is a subjective answer or an objective answer – Peace of the mind/soul. However, how to attain something so abstract such as Peace in our mind? This is one of the simplest, fundamental question in life and yet the most difficult to answer.

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