Most people want to be happy. Many of us spend our days desperately searching for something that will provide some semblance of happiness. We might not even realize we are doing it. Yet it seems to be built into our genetic code: Humans crave contentment and happiness. And this longing is so strong, so pervasive; it has spilled into the Christian faith. Many in the faith strongly believe that God wants us to be happy. In fact, deep down, I think most of us believe that on some level. Well, I have some bad news: Our happiness is not God’s top priority.
But, why would a loving God not want his prized creation to be happy? First, let’s get something cleared up. God is a God of love. The Bible is very clear on that point. He loves perfectly. No one can out love God. He has demonstrated this repeatedly. But God’s love does not always look like we want it to. His love is most certainly not proven or disproven by our level of happiness.
While the Bible doesn’t say much about God wanting us to be happy, it does tell us quite a few things that God does want us to be. And guess what? Sometimes these things God wants us to be will keep us from being “happy.” Doesn’t change anything. These Five things are non-negotiable.
1. God wants us to be holy (Leviticus 11:45 and 1 Peter 1:16).
This one is tough. Sometimes being holy will pretty much make happiness impossible. There is no getting around that. You simply have to look around the world, if you feel like I am assuming too much. Do you think the Christians that are held captive for months and then executed by terrorists are happy during all of that? Doubtful. But those that stay strong in the faith are seeking and finding holiness. And there are the countless examples in Scripture of holy men and women (Daniel, Ruth, Job, Joseph), who found themselves in unspeakably horrible circumstances. Achieving happiness in those situations would be difficult at best. Living out their faith until the end is a clear sign that holiness was their chief motivator.
2. God wants us to be generous (1 Timothy 6:17-19, Proverbs 11:24, Proverbs 19:17).
I listed three passages above that show that we are to be generous people. I could list dozens more. Generosity is not an option. It is a mark of a true Christian. Read 1 John 3:16-18:
16 We know what real love is because Jesus gave up his life for us. So we also ought to give up our lives for our brothers and sisters. 17 If someone has enough money to live well and sees a brother or sister in need but shows no compassion—how can God’s love be in that person? 18 Dear children, let’s not merely say that we love each other; let us show the truth by our actions.
Did you see it? If you have resources and you see a brother in need and do nothing to help, God’s love cannot live in you. That is pretty black and white. God wants us to give and to give generously.
3. God wants us to love (Luke 6:35, Mark 12:31, 1 Corinthians 13:4-8, 1 Peter 4:8, 1 John 4:7).
These verses describe the people that God said we have to love. As believers, love should characterize our lives. We should love without fear, without conditions, and without shame. We should love with passion, sincerity and abandonment, holding nothing back. Love should be our first response. It should be our last. We should love those that love us. We should love those that don’t. This is another of those commands that comes with a rather big disclaimer: If we don’t love, the love of God is not in us. Never let that be said of us.
4. God wants us to be people of prayer (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18, Colossians 4:2, Romans 12:12).
Here is another thing Scripture is clear about: We should pray more than we do. Can our prayer lives be described as devoted, confident, faithful, and continual? If not, we are doing it wrong. I know I am. While he was on the earth, Jesus was a man of prayer. We see him go off alone to pray all night on more than one occasion. If the very Son of God needed to spend time talking to God, how much more do we need it?
5. God wants us to have joy (Philippians 4:4, Habakkuk 3:17-18, Psalm 119:111, 1 Thessalonians 5:16).
I know you have heard how joy is different from happiness. You know it is about context. Happiness is directly connected to our circumstances. Joy is not. I don’t really want to spend time on that. I think most everyone gets the point. To me, this is joy: Paul and Silas singing praises in prison. The young parents that have lost a child, yet still holding on to the hope of their Redeemer. The martyrs all over the world that claim Christ even in the face of death, joy in the hearts and love in their eyes. That is joy.
So does God care if you are happy? I think God wants what is best for us. If that means happiness in this life, then He gives that to us willingly and with love. Sometimes though, what is best for us means suffering, pain, and loss. In those times, God gives us joy, peace and hope. Instead of grasping and clawing for every scrap of happiness, perhaps we should focus on becoming more holy, loving, prayerful, generous and joyful. All things God desires and commands us to be.