“Does God want me to be happy?”
That question is incredibly personal because my name means God gives me happiness. But over the years, I’ve heard countless Christians say to me, “God doesn’t care if you’re happy. He just wants you to be holy.”
Have you ever heard that? Have you ever said that yourself?
Why Some Christians Are Afraid of Happiness
I’ve met some Christians who misunderstand happiness. They’re all about having joy in Jesus (and so am I! Notice the tagline on this blog), but happiness feels, well, maybe a bit icky. Self-centered. Worldly.
And I think it’s because we misunderstand happiness as a superficial emotion that depends on whether or not things go our way.
Sale at your favorite store = HAPPY
Traffic jam on your way to work = UNHAPPY
I get it.
But I think we’re missing the bigger picture. Just because it’s possible to pursue happiness the wrong way shouldn’t stop us from pursuing it the right way.
“Is there selfish and superficial happiness? Sure. There’s also selfish and superficial love, peace, loyalty, and trust. We shouldn’t throw out Christ-centered happiness with the bathwater of self-centered happiness.”
~ Randy Alcorn
I firmly believe God wants us to be happy, because God Himself is a happy God.
Christians in the Hands of a Happy God
A few weeks ago I got my hands on a copy of Jennifer Dukes Lee’s The Happiness Dare.
I’ve been reading Jennifer’s blog for years, and I love her heart for pointing women to Jesus. Her words are laced with grace and filled with authenticity. So when I saw she was releasing a book on happiness, I wanted to hear what she had to say.
And The Happiness Dare did not disappoint.
Jennifer carefully lays a theological foundation for living a happy life in Christ, but she also grapples with the finer points of the conversation (i.e., If God wants me to be happy, is being unhappy a sin? What place is there for sadness and mourning in the Christian life? Is it possible to pursue happiness the wrong way?)
I especially appreciate how she helped me think of happiness and holiness as two sides of the same coin instead of diametrically opposed traits in life. For the Christian, holiness is happiness and happiness is holiness. They’re one and the same thing because they come from the same source: the Spirit of God. And God has a lot to say about both.
Take, for instance, one of the most well-known passages of Scripture: the beatitudes. In His Sermon on the Mount, Jesus describes 8 categories of people who are blessed: the poor in spirit, those who mourn, the meek, those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, the merciful, the pure in heart, the peacemakers, and the persecuted. That’s a depressing list, at least at first glance. But Jesus didn’t think so because Jesus doesn’t define happiness the way we do. Did you know that He was talking about happiness in this beloved passage? The word translated “blessed” also means happy.
Does that surprise you like it did me?
Jesus wants us to be happy because true happiness is only found in Him.
God is a happy God. He delights in His creation, He rejoices over us with singing, and He’s preparing a party unlike anything this universe has ever seen.
The Happiness Dare
Please don’t take this post to mean that God will give you health and wealth if you do everything right. That’s not the Gospel. And frankly, that’s not happiness either. Lots of rich and healthy people are unhappy, and at the root of their unhappiness is a longing for God.
But we belong to God. Our eternity is secure in Him, and no matter what happens today, we can choose to be happy because of Jesus. Our happiness is not contingent on the circumstances around us but rather bubbles up from the Spirit within us. Not only does God give us happiness–God IS our happiness.
And that’s what The Happiness Dare is all about. In her book, Jennifer reassures us of three fundamental principles:
- We have have permission to be happy (God wants us to be happy?! Wheeeeee!)
- We experience happiness in many different ways (we each are uniquely and wonderfully made, and we have different happiness styles)
- We can choose to be happy (despite the hardships we experience, our choice to be happy can very well change the world)
I’ll admit: I’ve never really thought so deeply about happiness as I have over the last few weeks, which, ironically, makes me happy because I’m a thinker. Exploring new ideas fills me with energy and happiness, while getting things done makes my husband happy and being around people makes my mom happy. That’s the beauty of happiness in God: we can celebrate our differences and fill the world with happiness.
So let’s settle this question in our hearts once and for all: we serve a happy God and our happiness flows freely from Him, illuminating the world around us. Indeed, we are surrounded by darkness, but we can shine like a city on a hill by exuding the happiness of God in us. Whatever your brand of happiness, I hope that you dare to be happy right where you are.
“Those who are ‘beloved of the Lord’ must be the most happy and joyful people to be found anywhere upon the face of the earth!” ~Charles Spurgeon