On Sunday mornings this summer, Heritage is exploring different myths commonly believed within Christianity during a “Mythbusters” teaching series. The week after each topic is taught from a biblical perspective, this blog will further dive into the issue at hand. We pray that this teaching series and the blog article that accompanies it will serve to be a resource as you reach your world for Christ.
By: Mitch Connell
Photo: Heather Michele Photo
Our culture seems obsessed with happiness these days, and for good reason. Who in their right mind wouldn’t choose to be happy all the time, if given the option? I mean, it surely beats being sad, mad, depressed, or anxious, right? Well, maybe…
Sure, being happy is “happier” than being downcast and burdened, but could it be that in our blind pursuit of happiness, we’ve been missing out on something awesome that God has for us? Is it possible that God has a work of sanctification, growth, or maturation right around the corner that we haven’t been privy too, simply because we’ve been seduced into thinking that our great aim in life is to “be happy”?
See, happiness is one of many emotions that God has given us to enjoy and to reflect who He is during our time on this earth. It is evidence of God’s common grace and love for His people, it is a good thing, and one that we should embrace whenever we find it. With that said, to the demise of many, happiness and the pursuit thereof, has become the sole purpose of many people’s lives in our culture. Unfortunately, pieces of that worldview have crept into evangelicals’ thinking as well. Here are some things I want to address to help us think well about all this.
1.) Happiness is NOT the only good emotion.
In the Scriptures, we see a clear picture of God’s heart, character, and emotions through His Son who is the “exact imprint of His nature.” (Heb. 1) In His time on Earth, Jesus wielded a whip in anger, wept bitterly after hearing of His friend’s death, and celebrated with His disciples, all while remaining completely sinless! (2 Cor. 5) This tells us that happiness, anger, frustration, sadness and the like are all God-given emotions that actually reflect His nature and point to who He is.
If happiness was bliss, wouldn’t our God, who is perfect, be happy all the time as well? Maybe we shouldn’t be pursuing happiness above all else if these other emotions are not “bad” after all. Perhaps a pursuit of holiness should take precedence, and we should embrace all of the God given emotions, as we seek to glorify our God in everything we say and do! Anyhow…to further my point, I want to give you an example of a “bad” emotion, being used for good.
In Romans 9, Paul, when talking about his fellow Jews that didn’t yet believe that Jesus was the Messiah, said something shocking about his state of mind and emotions. He said that he had “great sorrow and unceasing anguish” in his heart for these people and would actually have cut himself off from the faith if possible to save his kinsman.
Did you catch that? Unceasing anguish? Now that sounds like something we Americans would avoid at all costs. After all, we have a right to the “pursuit of happiness”…we don’t have time for that negative stuff like sorrow! I want to live a good life! Here’s the catch though…I bet Paul would have said he lived a great life. Difficult? Yes. Trying? Absolutely…but worth it? Without a doubt.
See, Paul’s burden for the lost is representative of God’s heart and something that we should be challenged by. When was the last time we wept for our lost family members or friends who will, without a doubt, die and face God’s wrath if they don’t repent and turn to Jesus for forgiveness and life? If we don’t allow ourselves to feel these burdens, we’ll miss out on seeing aspects of God’s heart.
Happiness is not the only good emotion, and we should not discount the value of feeling other emotions simply because they cause a bit more discomfort or are harder to deal with.
2.) God is more concerned with our holiness than our happiness.
Let me say this again…happiness IS a gift from God. We have an extremely good Dad, who loves to give good gifts to His kids, but I want to be clear about something…God is not obligated to move heaven and earth to make us happy. The universe does not revolve around us, and God’s great aim in the world is not to make sure we’re overjoyed with life’s circumstances. He is, however, concerned with conforming us into the image of His Son. When God says that He works all things together for our good in Romans, the context of that verse shows us that that “good” is very much linked to our being changed to look more like the Christ. We trust that God is going to work everything in our lives out for His glory, and our good…even if that means we don’t get temporary happiness in the moment.
So, maybe you’re like my wife and I, and have been struggling to be happy in the day to day grind of mundane life. Or perhaps, you have everything you have ever wanted, yet still find happiness to be more elusive than Barry Sanders in his prime…(if you don’t know who that is, look him up on YouTube!). The question then is this: Are we living to be happy? Or are we living to make much of Jesus’ name among the nations through preaching the gospel and making disciples?
The paradox of this whole thing is that when I’m pursuing happiness as an end in itself…I’m absolutely miserable. When I’m resting in Jesus’ loving care and on mission, come what may, I don’t care, I have all I need in my Lord and God.
While God has promised many good things to His kids, constant circumstantial happiness is not one of them. Should you feel bad about not being happy? Are you in sin because you’re not happy? Is being happy all the time a prerequisite to being a Christian? No! Was Jesus happy on the cross? Was Stephen happy when he was getting stoned to death in Acts chapter 7? Was Jeremiah happy when nobody listened to his preaching and the people of God eventually got carried off into exile? Heck no.
Was God’s will being carried out and was God working to glorify Himself and redeem mankind so that we might be saved and glorified with Him forever? Absolutely. Please stop beating yourself up for not being happy all the time! The encouragement for us is to push back against the world, seek the Kingdom of God (not happiness), and find a deep lasting joy in the process…even in the midst of the mundane or intense hardship and pain.