I do believe God wants you to be happy. And, he wants you to have joy. (One definition of joy is “extreme happiness”. But I don’t think God is for your happiness in the way you might expect. We Americans hold happiness in a high place. Our founding document enumerated our God-given rights as “Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness”.
So a fair question could be “What makes you happy?”. In the context of the Constitution, some of the things the framers believed would make people happy were the freedom to worship as they wished with no government interference. And they believed it would make people happy to own their own land and homes, to own businesses, to go and come at will, the freedom to speak their minds, etc. In this context happiness is a result of “happenings”. American citizens have the right to work toward the state of happiness. If things are good we are happy. If circumstances are not as we wish we are not happy. It’s the way we are. And those things change. When I was a kid we were dirt poor. The middle class was a few rungs on the social and economic ladder above us. But we were happy. No one told us we shouldn’t be happy so we were. Our vision was limited. Trust me, a bedroom that is below freezing in the winter and an outhouse instead of indoor plumbing would no result in my happiness today!
Does God want all of your happenings to roll out in ways that result in your happiness? No. I think God has a different idea about how happiness is achieved. It seems to me that in the Bible there is no happiness if there is no corresponding holiness. I could list many Bible characters whom I am convinced had joy and happiness but their “happenings” were not the kind that would produce joy in the average church member.
John the Baptist comes to mind. This was the birth announcement to his father given by an angel.
“Do not be afraid, Zechariah, for your prayer has been heard, and your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you shall call his name John. 14 And you will have joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth, 15 for he will be great before the Lord. And he must not drink wine or strong drink, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit,even from his mother’s womb. 16 And he will turn many of the children of Israel to the Lord their God, 17 and he will go before him in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just, to make ready for the Lord a people prepared” (Luke 1:13b-17)
The most obvious thing about this remarkable text is that John the Baptist was hand-picked by God! “He will be great before the Lord”, “…will be filled with the Holy Spirit, even from his mother’s womb”.
After some time in the wilderness, not exactly in the lap of luxury, John began his ministry. He was the forerunner for the Christ. John was a man of God calling on folks to repent and all the while making clear that compared to the one who would come (Jesus) he was nothing. What about John’s happiness? I believe he died a happy man, a man full of joy and deep settled peace. His fearless heralding of the truth got his head cut off! Not a preferred “happening” for most of us.
Don’t expect to have sustained happiness if you are unholy. The “Name it and Claim it” guys and gals on TV often miss this. Sometime read the last section of the very familiar 11th chapter of Hebrews. The list there of the lives, and the end of the lives, of some of God’s best saints in chilling.
God wants us to first find our satisfaction in knowing him, in trusting Christ, and in following his way. Those who own this course of living are not ruled by the happen stances of daily life but by the promises and power of God. If you want to be happy, if I want to be happy, I must learn and practice this word, ‘Surrender”. You and I must cease and desist doing things our way, investing in temporary pleasure, gathering things, in favor of simply giving ourselves and our happenings fully to the Lord who is our only sure source of joy and happiness. Deeply connected to him, the Life, is where true satisfaction is found. Your life might not end well. Your friends or family might disappoint, but above it all is a God who loves you and wants you to be happy…on his terms.