For years I’ve pondered the question, “does God care if I’m happy?”
You might be tempted to jump right to an easy answer…
Easy answer #1: “God cares more about your holiness, than your happiness.”
I think this is true, but it really redirects from what the heart of the question is. God wants us to be holy, and so Jesus makes it possible for us to be invited into His righteousness. And so for those of us who plead the blood and wear the righteousness of Christ, (even as we are walking our daily journey of edification) then does God care if I’m happy or not?
Easy answer #2: “Joy is what’s important.”
Of course! I want joy. Who doesn’t want joy? But I also want to be happy… I want the contentedness and spirit of thanksgiving to praise in times of plenty. But I still want to be happy. I want the deep lasting satisfaction and assuredness to endure suffering and hardship. But I also want to be happy. The main idea that has been presented to christians is – stealing from Kay Warren’s book title – is Choose Joy, Because Happiness isn’t enough. Absolutely. The book of Ecclesiastes shows us in a beautiful allegory the vanity of spending your life pursuing personal happiness and satisfaction. So while I agree with the idea that joy is more than important, it still does’t answer whether or not God cares about me being happy? I want the joy… But can I also be happy ?
Easy answer #3: “God loves you! Of course, he wants you to be happy!”
Everyone has seen the billboards and bumper stickers shouting JESUS LOVES YOU. It’s a message that we’ve become numb to, and yet it’s the message that we need to be reminded of most. God must want me to happy because I want the people I love to be happy. Well this might be true but that still leaves us with a problem.
And here’s the problem… When I look in the Word, I don’t see God concerned with happiness. Like, at all… Consider this:
– Were the disciples happy?
– Does Jesus ever even speak about happiness?
– The word “happiness” only appears in the Bible 1 time! (NKJV).
This lack of attention on happiness was surprising to me, and probably especially so as an American. After all, it is written, that we have the unalienable right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. How could the Bible not talk about something that many of us consider as important as freedom and life? And so for a long time, I suppose I just kind of sighed and thought “God must not really care about my happiness as much as he cares about my effort for his Kingdom and my living rightly for him.”
But this changed for me when I found a real definition of happiness. Happiness to so many people is a difficult feeling to define and even more elusive state of mind to maintain. Afterall, something that made you happy before could have the opposite effect the very next day. To fully answer my big question, I really first need to ask, what does it take to be happy. And Dr. Gordon Livingston, a psychiatrist who has studied human happiness for decades, breaks down happiness into three components.
What does it take to be ‘happy’?
- Meaningful work
- Meaningful relationships
This was my lightbulb moment. All you have to do is simply rephrase the question…
1. Does God care if I have meaningful work?
Of course! God gave Adam and Eve work in the Garden of Eden before the fall of man had happened. This work to was significant to Adam & Eve and God gave it to them as gift (Genesis 2:15). Additionally God gave work as a way for us to worship him with it. Consider the work and craftsmanship that went into building the temple, and the ark of the covenant, and the first people filled with the Holy Spirit in the Bible were craftsman who were building the Ark (Exodus 31:1-15).
2. Does God care if I have meaningful relationships?
Of course! We were created for fellowship with God as well as with one another. God says outright in Genesis 2:18, “It is not good for man to be alone.” In fact, fellowship with others is one of the most powerful ways we can experience the love of God in our lives.
3. Does God care if I have Hope?
Of course! Jesus is our hope. The only words more christian than Hope would be love (with faith taking a close tie!) Since I seem to be on a Genesis kick here, let me point out that this hope is evident even as far back as Genesis 3:15, where the Hope of Jesus Christ is foreshadowed for the first time. This verse is known as the protoevangelium, it is the first mention of the good news! There is a lot of hope in the Bible!
So does God care if I’m happy?
Of course!! God obviously cares about us having meaningful work, relationships, and finding our hope in Christ, and according to leading psychiatrists, that is the recipe for what we call happiness. With this articulate understanding of happiness, then we can easily answer, Of course, God cares if we are happy!
The DANGER of Happiness.
I’d like to end quickly with a clarification and a warning. As I mentioned earlier the idea of the ‘pursuit of happiness’ is placed in front of us as truth, and those words are known by every american. And so the this idea of happiness has been elevated in our lives us as idol. It is true that we do have this right to pursue happiness, and no one would like to take that a way. But, if our pursuit of anything is greater than our pursuit of God it becomes an idol in our life.
- Do you want happiness more than you want God?
- Do you want meaningful work, more than you want God?
- Do you want meaningful relationships more than you want God?
Work, relationships, hope, happiness, these are all amazing gifts God has given us to enjoy, but they are not a substitute for, nor should they take precedent over, God himself.
Of course God cares if you’re happy!
May God bless you abundantly with happiness & joy as you continue to pursue Him first.
Have you struggled with the idea of God wanting you to be happy? Thoughts? Questions? Comment below!
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I couldn’t resist that puppy – is it a Boxer?
If God is a good, loving father, then of course he wants his kids to be happy. Not the momentary happy of getting something like a toy or some candy that you might see in a spoiled kid at a store – which is soon forgotten and soon demands something else. But a genuine happiness that reflects being fully loved.
Few concepts scare me more than “holy, not happy” – it’s usually used of marriages, As if “both” isn’t an option. Either your marriage will be holy, or it will be happy. And if it’s holy, it isn’t going to be happy. Outside of that context, it seems just as harmful.
I struggle with happiness because my Christianity was just weird. It talked a lot about roles and said anyone who lived outside of them would only wander around in despair and misery. They preached heavily about the impropriety of work for some members and the necessity of work for others. They cautioned against relationships let they become more important than God, so few of us had friends or more serious relationships. Yet at the same time, they demanded some members to pursue them and others to respond to them. As for hope – there really wasn’t much ever said about hope – these things they also preached from Genesis’ first few chapters.
But somehow, my boxer dog seems to make everything better. And it’s a start.