2. Seriously, Does God Want You To Be Happy?

No. God wants under the umbrella of His will.  His will may or may not bring us happiness and our happiness has no bearing on being in His will.

OK,  it’s a bit of an imprecise question because it all hinges on what you mean by “happiness.”

I’m going to use happiness to mean whatever satisfies imagesus in this earthly life such as a fulfilling job, satisfying marriage, pastimes, relationships, possessions, pleasure, etc. Earthly happiness as opposed to upwardly focused joy, because that seems to be the American, and more ashamedly, the American Christian mindset.

Might point is quite narrow – it’s not Camus’ Sisyphus who was satisfied while eternally pushing a rock up a hill, or Boenhoffer who for awhile accepted his fate under Nazi oppression, or Paul who was content under the Roman persecution. Those attitudes could all be considered responsible, or noble, or Godly. The terms “satisfied,” and “accepted,” and “content or joy,” are not in this post, the same as “happy,” which it a kind of individual pursuit of the things of this world such as possessions, esteem, security, and comfort that fulfill our desires for earthly fulfillment.

And the whole point here is not whether God wants us to be happy (or unhappy.) It’s that happiness comes second, or third, or fourth to following God’s Will.

We spend a good part of our efforts chasing happiness, when we should be chasing God’s Will. When faced with a choice between happiness at the expense of God’s Will, and unhappiness inside God’s Will, then happiness be damned, so to speak.

This certainly doesn’t suggest we pursue unhappiness. But perhaps it would have been better that Jefferson had penned …the pursuit of God’s Will (even though the current Time Magazine points out that many Americans’ misunderstand what Jefferson meant.)

I think that God indeed wanted us to be happy in the beginning, the whole picture of the Garden of Eden. But you might have noticed we’re not there anymore. We’re in a trash dump. Picture yourself looking down on a friend standing neck high in the middle of that trash dump. The assumption is that he would want to get out of the trash dump because it’s not what makes him happy. But he is so consumed and focused on his existence in the trash dump that he tries to improve his lot there. He tries everything he can to become happy there. Maybe move some cardboard under his feet so it isn’t so squishy. Or reach for some beat up Kleenex boxes with the floral print on the side because they’re more pleasant to look at.

In the mean time, you’re yelling down to him to get out of the trash. But he’s so busy trying to become happy there, that he’s forgotten he’s in a dump.

Have you ever wondered if Jesus was happy? I don’t see a lot there to say he was especially happy. The closest I can come is at the last supper when he talked of the disciples as his friends.

I can also imagine him pleased with a particularly tasty fish, or warm fire, or new pair of sandals. And would he not have given thanks for these? I can also imagine the Father wanting Christ to have that great fish, fire, and sandals. But they came second. It’s tempting to suggest that they were not the object of God’s Will, as much as it’s byproduct.

Was Christ unhappy? Did he want to be unhappy? Does God want us to be unhappy?  Not as an end. In the same way that it wasn’t important to Christ to be happy, it wasn’t important to him that whether he was unhappy. It was important for him to be in God’s Will. A desire for happiness or unhappiness was probably not even in his concern.

Likewise, we shouldn’t make happiness our priority – we should make God’s Will our priority. If happiness in the form of pleasing food, music, and possessions come along with it, then so be it. We should treasure anytime we are surrounded by His Will and earthly pleasantry at the same time.

A serious danger though, is rationalizing that our desire for happiness does fit into God’s Will. “God loves me, and His love means He wants me to be happy, and I would be happy if I had a bigger house, therefore, God’s Will is that I have a bigger house.”

And a serious question to ask, is if we should ever seek out unneeded earthly happiness at any time, or in any form.

We can of course take away “happiness,” from satisfying our need for food, rest, relaxation, etc., but then happiness is a secondary result, not a primary pursuit.

God wants bring us under the umbrella of his will. And that may or may not bring us to happiness

Does a parent want his child to be happy?  Ultimately yes, but he knows that it’s more important that the child learn and grow.

Look at these verses regarding happiness:

Ecclesiastes 7:14

When times are good, be happy; but when times are bad, consider this: God has made the one as well as the other. Therefore, no one can discover anything about his or her future.

2 Corinthians 7:8-10

Even if I caused you sorrow by my letter, I do not regret it. Though I did regret it—I see that my letter hurt you, but only for a little while — yet now I am happy, not because you were made sorry, but because your sorrow led you to repentance.

James 5:13

Is anyone among you in trouble? Let them pray. Is anyone happy? Let them sing songs of praise.

None of these speak to our pursuing or gaining happiness.  In each, happiness is counterpointed with bad times, sorrow, and trouble. Happiness is a reaction, not a pursuit.

We are extraordinarily self-centered when it comes to happiness. In the pursuit of happiness, we:

  • Take unwise risks
  • Pursue possessions
  • Chase dubious endeavors
  • Abandon significant relationships

So what do we do with either happiness or unhappiness?

I would suggest subject it. Make it unimportant. Replace it with obligation or duty to God, an upward focus, an expectant fulfillment, and the joy of His purpose working in our world and life.  Joy is distinct from happiness. Happiness is short lived and temporal. Joy is eternal and spiritual.

We need to stop chasing after happiness. I am starting to picture Happiness as a cute little well-intending creature; and while we think we chase after it,  it actually chases after us, not realizing that it might distract us or weight us down, or worst, take us off our course. But that’s what we naturally want. We want to be wrapped up in Happiness, to let its cute and and fuzzy arms hug us. But sometimes God steps between us and Happiness in order to bring us into His will. Sometimes He reaches down with His hand pushing the little creature off in another direction like we do to a spider that we take outside and let go, and other times He squashes the spider flat.

Likewise Unhappiness chases us. Unhappiness is a wart and sharp quill-covered creature with yellowed and snarling teeth. And it smells bad. And we want to be as far from it as possible, so we run. We want to get as far from Unhappiness as possible. But sometimes God allows Unhappiness to catch up with us, also in order to bring us into His will.

Naturally, He can also allow Happiness to catch us, as well as keep Unhappiness from us. The point is that it’s His will we should focus on and not happiness or unhappiness. Both come and go but His will is constant.

So how do we get from a pursuit of happiness to the Will of God? I’m working on that. Look back in a couple weeks. I want to move from happiness as a feeling, then go from feelings in general to how can act instead, according to the Will of God.


One thought on “2. Seriously, Does God Want You To Be Happy?

  1. Herself

    you are very close to answering your question on “does God want us to be happy”. “Are we created to be happy”. as I said in my reply to your first statement, happiness is doing God’s Will. we are happy only if we are united with God. we are unhappy when we are separated from .god. how do we become separated from God? by ignoring God’s Will,.


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