Is happiness our goal in the Christian life?
We often hear the comment, ‘I just want to be happy’.
We place a lot of value on being happy… and why not? To experience happiness is a God-given emotion that reflects that we are enjoying life. However is happiness something we should focus on attaining? In my experience, happiness is an emotion that comes and goes, but it should not be a barometer to measure how blessed our lives are or whether or not we’re necessarily on the ‘right path’. One of the more blessed times in my life came during a period where happiness seemed a very distant emotion. What I believe it comes down to is our attitude to the journey that God has us on.
We are called to be Holy above all else
One of the biggest traps I have found myself falling into was thinking that ‘if I’m not happy then I must be doing something wrong’, not following God in some way. Although unhappiness and pain are often a direct consequence of disobeying God, following God will also require us to go through periods in our lives where we struggle to be happy. I wonder how happy Jesus was when He was getting flogged and crucified. I wonder how happy Paul and the other disciples were when they were brutally persecuted for following Jesus. Living holy lives should be our primarily focus – that is, a life that seeks to obey God in everything regardless the feelings being experiencing.
We need to practice patience and self-control, not seeking immediate satisfaction for our needs and wants. We need to express the truth to others in a loving and gracious manner, even if it possibly means upsetting them, or us. We need to stay clear of environments and activities that may have satisfied our human desires in the past, but clearly dishonour and stain what God has for us. We need to stand firm when this world tries to entice us towards ungodly activities and self-absorbed ways of thinking, no matter how much we are chastised and relentlessly persecuted! We need to be honest with God, even if it means exposing some deep-rooted sinful habits. To live a holy life is the toughest path we can travel.
However it is the path that God has called us to take. It is the only path by which we will be completely fulfilled according to God’s good plans for us. The hidden blessing in taking that path is that we see how faithful God is and that despite all our inadequacies and struggles, He graciously and powerfully enables and equips us to push on no matter the storms that come our way. The result: an inner, untouchable, joyous peace that we are living for God, being a direct part of His incredible plans and purposes!
With what areas of your life are you unhappy? Is it a result of disobeying God or trying to honour Him? God loves us so much and wants us to experience happiness along with other uplifting emotions.
However more than that, He wants what’s best for us, which may require us to endure discipline or go through trials. Often our happiest times come when we enjoy the fruits of our perseverance through the intended hardships of our lives. So let’s push on and relish the challenges, not forgetting the ultimate prize God has secure for us – an eternal life in heaven void of any suffering or pain; but filled with joy, peace, love and… happiness.
“ People who always want to be happy and pursue it above all else are some the most miserable people in the world.”
 Dr Henry Cloud and Dr John Townsend; “Boundaries in Marriage”; 1999; Zondervan; p109.
9 who saved us and called us to a holy calling, not because of our works but because of his own purpose and grace, which he gave us in Christ Jesus before the ages began,
7 For God has not called us for impurity, but in holiness.
19 Therefore let those who suffer according to God’s will entrust their souls to a faithful Creator while doing good.