I was told by a particularly selfish individual once that they had decided to proceed with their reckless behavior despite knowing that it would run contrary to the Word of God as well as any understanding of common decency. They were simply unhappy in their current situation and they believed that God would not hold them accountable for their misdeeds because God really wanted them to be happy.
I’ve thought about that quite a bit after hearing that line of reasoning. Does God want me to be happy? Is that what the gospel is all about? Is THAT why Jesus died on the cross? So I could be happy. I can’t imagine a less noble or more meaningless reason for the sacrifice of Jesus than for me to merely seek out temporary happiness from day to day on the Earth.
I realize this may offend some people, but it seems completely antithetical to the message of the scriptures to assume that my happiness is God’s highest aim. Ultimately the question before us is, “What is God most invested in for me?”
If it’s not my happiness is He invested in my unhappiness? Again, no. That too runs contrary to scripture. It is not my happiness nor my unhappiness that Jesus aimed to secure through His death and resurrection. He is most interested in our fruitfulness.
God is most interested in our fruitfulness to His glory. Our fruitfulness to His glory and His kingdom is what brings the most blessing and joy to our lives. Jesus said in John 15:1-5
“I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in Me that bears no fruit, He takes away. And every branch that bears fruit, He prunes, that it may bear more fruit. You are already clean through the word which I have spoken to you. Remain in Me, as I also remain in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it remains in the vine, neither can you, unless you remain in Me. “I am the vine, you are the branches. He who remains in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit. For without Me you can do nothing.”
The problem with happiness is that happiness is dependent upon our circumstances and our circumstances change. What made me happy yesterday doesn’t make me happy today and what makes me happy today likely won’t satisfy me tomorrow.
There are a lot of things God wants for you, and they’re all good things, but happiness isn’t necessarily one of them. Happiness is one of the most fluid, short sighted, and petulant emotions. It changes, often with little to no regard for what we need and what is in our own best interest. You can’t trust happiness because you can’t trust your heart! Whoever tells you to follow your heart is lying to you. Your heart will deceive you, it will lie to you, and it will tell you things God doesn’t even believe (Jer. 17:9, Pro. 27:20, 1John 3:21).
God knows that you and I need something bigger, stronger, and more sufficient than the petulant, deceitful, and short sighted demands of happiness from our own hearts to build our lives upon.
The Christian has not been promised happiness. That doesn’t mean we should aim to live in unhappiness. It’s simply to say that God has bigger and better gifts to give us than happiness. He is calling us to live the noble life of self-sacrifice and servanthood to the cross.
God isn’t our personal genie, present in every moment and compelled to modify every turn of our life that we find uncomfortable and unwelcome. We are called Christians, after the one who denied Himself to carry a cross. He isn’t interested in our ease of life. Our calling is to take up our cross.
“Then Jesus said to His disciples, “If anyone will come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for My sake will find it. For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses his own soul? Or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?” (Matthew 16:24-26, MEV)
God wants us to be fruitful. He wants the fruit of the Spirit to be produced in our lives. He wants us to walk in the fulness of joy. Every time we pursue happiness outside of the will of God we are exchanging His great gifts, and the source of all our blessings, for the fleeting happiness we might cobble together from the things of this world.
No, God doesn’t want us to be happy. He wants us to walk in His ways so that we will be fruitful, blessed, joyful, and holy. He wants you to have joy!
“I have spoken these things to you, that My joy may remain in you, and that your joy may be full.” (John 15:11)
Jesus said the whole reason He wants us to remain in Him and bear fruit is because He wants our joy to be full. And that joy is only found in Him. We were designed for Him!
“God wants me to be happy.”
No, God wants you to produce the fruit of the Spirit and be holy.
“But God wants me to be happy.”
No, He wants you to “conform to the image of His son” (Rom. 8:29).
“I love God and I know, because God loves me, that He just wants me to be happy”
Jesus said in John 14:15 “If you love me, keep my commandments.”
Let this sink in; Jesus loves you too much to let you always be happy.
Those of us who are parents understand this principle when it comes to our kids. We want them to be safe, healthy, and we want them to learn to be upstanding and moral human beings. So we don’t let them be happy and eat candy for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. We don’t allow them to play in traffic, no matter how happy they would be. We are far more concerned with their safety in that moment than their happiness. We don’t let them bully other children, destroy property, or disrespect their elders and authority figures because we are more concerned with what they are and what they are becoming than we are with their momentary happiness. Somehow, it’s when we must reconcile ourselves as children to our Heavenly Father that we begin to find this concept difficult and insufferable.
It’s instructive to me that this phrase is almost always used as a way to justify behaviors and decisions that we know we will find resistance from the scriptures and the church. If it’s true, God wants me to be happy, then it will be true at all times. Yet it’s never used as an explanation for pain and suffering, never said to comfort someone going through a test of their faith.
The real truth is that sin can make you temporarily happy in certain circumstances but it is incapable of providing the lasting and sufficient joy, the blessedness that Jesus wants and went to the cross in order to secure for you and I.
If you being happy means chasing sin over God’s will then no, God doesn’t want you happy. Furthermore, if following Gods way is unhappiness to you then you need to be born again. Those who have been born again of water and spirit find fulfillment, peace, joy, and blessing in living in God’s will, God’s way, and God’s time.
In Matthew 5 in His “Sermon on The Mount” Jesus upends our natural inclinations by teaching that the blessed ones, the happy ones, are those who:
are poor in spirit
hunger and thirst for righteousness
are pure in heart
are persecuted for righteousness sake.
Jesus explains that these people are blessed because they have:
the kingdom of heaven
the comfort of God
the hope of seeing God
the privilege of being called the “sons of God”
God wants us fruitful. God wants us blessed. God wants us filled with joy.
Achieving those things may or may not involve our personal happiness. Sometimes the avenue by which we access that blessed life is not one that is particularly happy, or preferred for our human comfort. Sometimes it means we need to be pruned (John 15:1-5). But if we remain in Christ and surrendered to His will it will always move us toward the chief aim of Jesus, namely our redemption from sin and the fullness of our joy through His indwelling Spirit.
God may not want me happy, but He does want me joyful, He does want me blessed, and He does want me saved.