Read original article in RELEVANT Magazine:
Once upon a time, too many people saw God as a genie whose main purpose was to grant us our every wish. They believed every action in life was meant to bring happiness, and if it did, it would be what God wanted.
Then a backlash ensued against these ideas. A tidal wave of rebuttals addressed them, speaking out about deeper truths like purpose in suffering, and the fact that our happiness is not the litmus test for what’s good.
As a result, many people today state that while God is concerned with our growth, He is not so concerned with our happiness.
Today the idea of God wanting us to be happy is one that many Christians shy away from or refute. We’re OK with words like, “contentment” or “joy.” We believe those words contain an element of depth and holiness. “Happiness” though, well, that’s different. It reminds many of us of society’s definition of the meaning of life—like momentary satisfaction. It feels empty, irresponsible and even dangerous. It seems to squash the notion that God is Holy, wants us to grow or uses our suffering.
And sure, God is not a wish-granter, and our main purpose in life isn’t consistent happiness. I have been through long seasons of intense trial and suffering, and they have changed me in priceless ways—ways I believe were divinely created.
But I think that while God allows and carefully uses seasons of difficulty, it is not His sole desire for us. When I look at His Word, I can see that He has a strong desire to even bring us—dare I say it—happiness, even if it’s not exactly how our culture would tend to define it.
Happiness Is in God’s Nature
First of all, we see happiness in God’s very nature. Not only is He overflowing with love, He also brimming over with happiness.
Scripture says God “rejoices over us with singing.” This is not some uptight, stern judge who waits for us to mess up. This is a person who adores us, and whose very being is inclined toward happiness.
Too often, we walk around with a heavy sense of seriousness. We are burdened with the belief that God Himself is serious, and our duty is to walk “just so” before Him. We become weak under the load. We think becoming lighthearted might mean becoming irresponsible.
But that’s not the way it has to be. Scripture not only says God Himself is our strength; It also says His joy is our strength. Perhaps it’s time we paid more attention to His jovial heart—one that can’t help but sing over His creation.
David praised God with singing and dancing, and sometimes we need to do that—get off that mental tight rope and just celebrate God’s good presence around us.
Hope Through Suffering
Of course, God’s desire for us to be happy doesn’t mean we won’t have times that we’re not. He takes us through seasons of suffering and difficulty, because He does desire more for us than only happiness; or what we think is happiness. He wants to refine our character, help us heal from the past and develop into our emotional and spiritual potential. This process often feels painful, and He doesn’t ask us to just pretend like everything’s OK and smile through it.
But the struggle is not the end of the story. And if we think God wants us to feel constantly miserable in order to make us holy, then we won’t grasp all of His love. The truth is, even the invitation to grow contains the desire of God to bring us to a deeper level of health, freedom—and therefore happiness.
When we go through times of suffering, God wants us to keep sight of the hope that there’s more for us. In Isaiah, we see His passion to encourage the Israelites. Many years prior, they rebelled against God, and He distanced Himself from them. And yet, now He zealously proclaims that He is taking them back. He even wants to bless them more than they’ve ever been blessed before.
You can almost feel God’s excitement when He says, “They will enter Zion with singing; everlasting joy will crown their heads. Gladness and joy will overtake them, and sorrow and sighing will flee away” (Isaiah 51:11).
Clearly, God doesn’t just want them to feel a little better. He wants their joy to be everlasting. He wants gladness and joy to overtake them.
Happiness doesn’t mean something that’s only surface level, even if people around us treat it that way. In fact, true happiness—happiness from God—is peaceful, safe and good. It’s genuine, and it isn’t based on situations that are empty or bad for us.
God may hold something back from you for this reason. It may be that He sees what we can’t, and He has something better in mind. So it’s not that God doesn’t want us to be happy. Rather, it’s the fact that He wants us to have eternal joy, and that causes Him to close certain doors now.
Happiness may not come the way we expect it to, or be packaged in the wrapper we assume it will. But if it’s from Him, it will be beautiful; and likely better than what we planned.
There is nothing wrong with wanting happiness, because God wants it for us too. It’s just a question of not exalting it over God. It’s an issue of being willing to surrender to Him for those seasons that don’t feel so easy, while trusting that His blessings are still on the way.
“This is the day the Lord has made, let us rejoice and be glad in it.”