I’m astonished at how much God desires our happiness. At times, it is even difficult to embrace. Many share this struggle because, like me, they’ve fallen in one of the Two Theological Ditches:
Ditch #1: God only cares about my holiness.
When you pit happiness against holiness, you lose a Biblical understanding of both. Obedience sterilized of joy and love is not pious. It’s pagan. Jesus deals with holiness as a matter of the heart.
But what comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart, and this defiles a person.
If you love Me, you will keep My commandments.
True holiness comes from a heart that loves God. It’s why Jesus called the Pharisees “hypocrites” earlier in Matthew 15. They made a big show about righteousness, but their hearts were wicked and far from Him. Many times, we see holiness as drudgery rather than the response of a heart freed in Christ. It’s an unhappy place to be.
Ditch #2: God only cares about my happiness.
Usually this statement is made as a way to justify any number of sinful acts. God’s Word ends up playing second chair to our own whims of money, power and sex. Where Ditch #1 glorifies suffering and self-righteousness, Ditch #2 believes the lie that we know what’s best. Some of the unhappiest people are those who live in Ditch #2.
Scripture never claims that God is uncaring about your happiness. He does, however, care tremendously about its source. So, the question to ask is not, “Am I happy?” Instead, you must ask:
“Is my relationship with God a means to an end or an end in itself?”
If God is a means to an end, we’ll find ourselves preoccupied with either material blessing (health, wealth, and comfort) or hardship (suffering, persecution, and calamity). Both force our eyes away from the Person who brings comfort and happiness.
In Hebrew, the word “blessed” means “happy.” It’s not only an emotion, but also a sense of deep peace, wholeness and joy. Happy Holiness. It can only come from being rooted in God. Read Psalm 1 today knowing that “Blessed is the man…” could actually be translated, “Happy is the man…” Then read Matthew 5 – The Sermon on the Mount – in the same light.
Now, this doesn’t mean we will always feel happy. There will be difficult seasons. We will have days of sorrow, mourning and despair. But we also have a God who brings comfort, and promises to one day wipe away every tear. So, when we pray for His Kingdom to come on Earth as it is in Heaven, we are asking Him to bring a Place of pure, holy happiness. It reminds me of a conversation from The Lord of the Rings.
“Gandalf!” Frodo said, “I thought you were dead! But then I thought I was dead myself. Is everything sad going to come untrue? What happened to the world?”
“A great Shadow has departed,” said Gandalf, and then he laughed and the sound was like music, or like water in a parched land; and as he listened the thought came to Sam that he had not heard laughter, the pure sound of merriment, for days upon days without count.
– J.R.R. Tolkien
The Return of the King
Life in Christ can turn mourning into dancing and grief into comfort. Happy holiness knows that Laughter is coming, and one day all of the sad things will come untrue. God cares tremendously about it.