Is Happiness For The Christian?

Thursday, April 14, 2016

The idea of happiness as a laudable objective for Christian pursuit is a frequent matter of question among theologians, philosophers, preachers and arm-chair ideologues.  While it is as natural as breathing for a person to desire the sensations and appeasements that come with what we call “being happy,” it is most certainly not natural.  Happiness does not come easily.  Some would even suggest that it is less than spiritual somehow to seek happiness.  I disagree.  Though seasons of unhappy circumstances may plague us as believers, we can and should desire to be happy.  I cannot imagine that a Christian who is never happy is spiritually healthy.  Spurgeon said, “Depression is a leak through which the soul’s force wastes itself drop by drop,” and, “He is but half a man who is a downcast man.”  We should make it our business to help people toward happiness as often as possible. 

While Charles Spurgeon said, “It is not how much we have but how much we enjoy that makes us happy,” consistent dearth in areas of importance can make happiness difficult to maintain.  Experience tell us that abundance is no guarantee that mirth will be our companion.  Although depression is not always a spiritual matter and thus cannot always be rectified with spiritual solutions, happiness is not always the result of one “having it all.”

Expositors almost always low-rate happiness.  It goes something like this: “Joy is an internal satisfaction that is the result of our relationship with God.  It is constant and based upon the promises of God.  Happiness; on the other hand, is based upon ‘happenings’ - fleeting, circumstantial matters that are temporary and external.”

I do not completely disagree.  One commentator put it this way, “Spiritual joy is not an attitude dependent upon change or circumstances. It is the deep and abiding confidence that, regardless of one’s circumstances in life, all is well between the believer and the Lord.”  That’s a good explanation.

However, if you believe the English text of the King James Bible, you will not find so great a distinction between happiness and joy.  Consider the word joy in Deuteronomy 28:47:

Because thou servedst not the Lord thy God with joyfulness, and with gladness of heart, for the abundance of all things;

Clearly, God was rebuking Israel for not having joy over all the blessings (circumstantial) that they had been given.  God’s blessings do most certainly bring joy.  Joy is not only to be had in spite of things, it can also be had because of things.

Happiness; however, is a word that seems to mean more in the scripture than many want to recognize.  For instance, “Happy is the man that findeth wisdom” (Pr. 3:13), or “happy is that people whose God is the Lord,” (Ps. 144:15).  Each of these verses and others (Pr. 16:20; 28:14; Jn. 13:17; Jm. 5:11), seem to suggest that the kind of happiness that comes from being right with God is a happiness of a different sort, of a higher quality than that which comes from ordinary, though favorable circumstances.

So, let’s review and expand these observations:

  1. Joy is a kind of deep and abiding satisfaction that is based upon our being right with God and submissive to His will.
  2. This joy, which comes from having the mind of Christ (Phil. 2:5), will lead to a daily blessedness…a happy life.
  3. Happiness, which is the delight that comes from the good fortune of being blessed by God, will come to those who have this deep and abiding joy.  Why? Because people who are right with God and submissive to His will, that is, they have the mind of Christ and live accordingly, will experience a different kind of circumstances!

A man who has “found wisdom,” will live differently.  He will make better decisions, form godly relationships and alliances and he will be led by the Lord daily.  The result will be a superior set of circumstances than those encountered by people who live self-centered, self-destructive lives.

Are you happy?  You can be and you should be, but it will take some careful consideration of God’s will, some wise changes and commitment.  Eventually, you find that happiness will…happen.
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