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Does God want you to be happy?

I have heard it said many times in Christian contexts that God is not concerned about our happiness, that joy is what we shoot for and that happiness is superficial and circumstantial. Joy on the other hand is substantive and lasting. In many sermons I have heard the two ideas juxtaposed, treated as if they were mutually exclusive. I am convinced that many Christians believe that God wants us to be unhappy. This idea is similar to the thinking that says if medicine is going to work it has to taste bad. Both ideas are incorrect.

God wants you to be happy.

God also wants true happiness for you, and that is a happiness that has as its source the truth which leads to the fruit of joy. Now joy is the source of happiness. Happiness is the outward expression of joy. To divide or juxtapose happiness and joy is to miss the point. Our character needs to find expression in our action. To claim joy but not express happiness is not godly; it is a forced misery, an unholy suppression. We all want happiness – we are drawn to it, motivated by it, addicted to it. Everyone seeks happiness, and so we should. It could possibly be the highest expression of praise with regards to living and the God who gave us life. The Hebrews understood this connection. That is why when I watched the Chabad fund raiser on television the Hasidic Jews (very conservative law keepers) were dancing in their black suits and hats. Baptists on the other hand would never dance with joy before the Lord – it would be considered ….well, happy.

God wants you to be happy.

Listen to these verses:

  • Psalm 16:11: You will make known to me the path of life; In Your presence is fullness of joy; In Your right hand there are pleasures forever. When Peter quotes this verse in the New Testament it goes this way: Acts 2:28 ‘YOU HAVE MADE KNOWN TO ME THE WAYS OF LIFE; YOU WILL MAKE ME FULL OF GLADNESS WITH YOUR PRESENCE.’

  • Nehemiah 8:10: Then he said to them, “Go, eat of the fat, drink of the sweet, and send portions to him who has nothing prepared; for this day is holy to our Lord. Do not be grieved, for the joy of the LORD is your strength.”

Did you notice that in Nehemiah the command is to eat and drink as a response to the joy of the Lord? Happiness as expressed in mundane, day to day activities flows out of a heart that is right with God and understands the will and purpose of God. A heart that is joyful (substantively happy) because of the knowledge that God has redeemed me from sin and bought me with a price, forgiven me, called me his son, and promised me life eternal, abundant and free. That kind of joyful heart eats and drinks in celebration of what already is. The heart without the joy of the Lord eats and drinks to attain happiness because there is no joy – a massive difference.

A person without the foundation of joy still seeks for happiness. The problem is that the substance of their happiness is found in temporary things, with a limited life span and a limited ability to satisfy. That is why we always need more and better things. That is why ultimately without God who is our strength (substance), happiness is fleeting. With an eternal source of joy, happiness is recharged all the time; rather happiness can be recharged all the time. We often choose to not be happy. True happiness is an expression of true joy. True happiness is natural growth from existing internal and real joy. Fleeting and surface happiness goes after the expressions of happiness (“eating and drinking”) as the substance versus the expression. It is like buying fruit from a stand when you can own a grove of trees.

Jesus talked about this in Matthew 6:25-34. He said to “seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added unto you.” All these things are the things which make people happy: food, clothing, length of life, and the things of this life. They will only make us happy when we find our joy in the kingdom of God.

Here are some quotes about happiness:

Many persons have the wrong idea of what constitutes true happiness. It is not attained through self-gratification but through fidelity to a worthy purpose.”
Helen Keller

Most people are about as happy as they make up their minds to be.”

Abraham Lincoln

Two interesting observations in light of our conversation: true happiness comes from true joy; we have all we need if God is our source – so be happy.

God wants you to be happy.



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