For everything comes from him and exists by his power and is intended for his glory. (Romans 11:36)
Happiness has multiple meanings in our society. It can be …
- a fleeting emotion (such as the excitement from being at an amusement park)
- a deep satisfaction (grown from hard-won accomplishments).
- a description of pleasure: personal, relational, and circumstantial (sometimes shallow, sometimes deeply meaningful.
With such a wide range of meanings, happiness in Christian circles can sometimes get a bad reputation. Christians have been warned against pursuing happiness (with its connection to superficial desires) and are redirected instead to the concept of joy. This sometimes implies that happiness is regarded as “bad” while joy is considered “good.”
This mentality can cause confusion and even shame for those who are enjoying the good gifts God has given them (such as financial and personal success or accomplishments). It can even create a sense of duty or drudgery toward the Christian walk.
THE TRUTH OF HAPPINESS AND JOY
Happiness in Hebrew is known as “ashrê,” a term used throughout the Bible to describe “well-being,” and “flourishing.” This word is most often translated into English as “blessed.”
HAPPINESS IN THE SCRIPTURES
Blessed is a very common word in Scripture, but as we just learned, it also can be translated as happiness. It is used in some very familiar passages, including the popular Beatitudes in which “blessed” is often substituted with “happy.”
Happy are those who know they are spiritually poor; the Kingdom of heaven belongs to them!
Happy are those who mourn; God will comfort them!
Happy are those who are humble; they will receive what God has promised!
Happy are those whose greatest desire is to do what God requires; God will satisfy them fully!
(Matthew 5:3-6 )
Does this change how you interpret these verses?
Several other passages use “ashrê” for “blessed” (Psalms 2:12; 1:1; 106:3). What these passages show us is that God is interested in human happiness. However, the source of this happiness is God himself. This happiness that comes from God is far better than the happiness offered by contemporary culture. It is found only in God and is accompanied by virtues such as faith, hope, humility, obedience, godliness, and love directed to God, and it satisfies the soul for eternity.
HAPPINESS FOUND IN GOD
The pursuit of happiness is not bad because God placed the original desire in our hearts! He intends that our longings would ultimately lead us to Him because true and complete happiness is found only in Him.
It’s important to understand that “happiness” in the Bible does not mean the same thing as it does in today’s culture. Sin has distorted the meaning and this is the reason the church has created caution around it. True and holy happiness is richer, fuller, deeper, and eternal – and it does not deny feelings, circumstances, or fulfillment.
It’s not bad to feel happy, and it’s not bad to pursue happiness – but we must be wary of the potential for both idolatry and the pursuit of superficial happiness. When we hold our gifts with closed hands and relish in them instead of God, we are pursuing the wrong kind of happiness. When we put our desires into God’s hands and make Christ the center of our lives, the blessings God gives us are gifts to be enjoyed with thanksgiving and humility.
KING SOLOMON’S HAPPINESS
We read in Scripture that God approached Solomon to grant him a request. He wanted to “bless” Solomon. God wanted to make him happy! Solomon’s desire was in line with holy happiness; he did not seek the superficial. God was his true happiness, so he asked for the wisdom to continue to please God and serve Him. It says God was “pleased” with his choice and decided to give him every earthly pleasure one could desire on top of it. Sadly, Solomon turned away from God later in life. His pursuit of happiness was corrupted, and he lost all meaning and purpose. At the end of his life, he may have owned everything, but he had nothing.
WE CAN BE HAPPY!
God’s laws and directions for our lives are not to give us a miserable, unhappy existence. We have to believe that God’s ways will truly make us “happy” even if we don’t see the immediate evidence of that on this side of eternity. When we believe that choosing God is worth it, we are freeing ourselves from obligation and the “duty” of serving Him. We see God as the greater desire, and we serve Him willingly. With that comes true happiness and joy.
Check your heart before God but don’t be ashamed of the good gifts God has given you. Be grateful and be happy! Celebrate God, revel in all His goodness, and be filled with joy! For the Lord, your God who is the root of all happiness delights in us as we delight in Him.
Let’s reclaim the “holy” pursuit of happiness today!
Thank you for delighting in us as your sons and daughters and for filling our lives with abundant joy! Help us to align our priorities to your truth and pursue holy happiness that comes only from you. Keep our hearts grateful and our hands open to the things of this world, holding onto the promise of eternal happiness that will one day be ours. Amen.
QUESTIONS TO PONDER
- With what have you been blessed that brings you happiness and joy?
- How are you honoring God in using the gifts with which he has blessed you?
- How can you remind yourself to be content with the rich blessings you have in your life?
Chronic Joy® Contributing Writer
Erin is a grateful follower of Jesus, navigating the different stages of life through the eyes of chronic illness. She has a passion for empowering others by encouraging them to trust God even in the most difficult of circumstances. Erin and her husband (along with their two young boys) are purposeful and passionate in living out their faith and loving their neighbors. Her other passions include freelance writing, loom knitting, and fishing!
Living a Life of Celebration
Don’t let the little moments, small blessings, or tiny triumphs slip by unnoticed or unacknowledged. Instead, pause. Give thanks. Join the chorus of creation and share your joy.