There is a term that came up in a number of sessions this week and it comes up so often that I would like to share a few thoughts about it.
“Happy.” Interesting term. Let’s see how it (or a variation) might be used in a sentence. “Doesn’t God want me to be happy?” Well, yes, it appears the Lord would like us to be happy because He took the time to tell us how to do it. Look at Matthew 5:3-11. Oh, I know it probably says “blessed” in your Bible but a Greek dictionary will tell you that the word Jesus uses here can rightfully be translated “happy.” Tough list. Not what you and I would expect as the path to happiness. Apparently Jesus thinks true happiness comes from getting our eyes off of ourselves and focusing on Him and His kingdom.
Or consider this sentence in regards to marriage: “I find it hard to believe that God would prefer two people stay together unhappy solely for the sake of the institution or a piece of paper.” Me too. Actually, He wants Christians to remain married for the sake of obedience and testimony. Somehow He is bold enough to say that Christian marriage is supposed to give testimony to the world about the relationship between Christ and the Church, a relationship primarily of sacrifice and agape love, not necessarily happiness. Regrettably, my pastoral and my personal experience both tell me that most people that are “unhappy” in Christian marriage (or many other “unhappy” situations) are simply selfish. They have the wrong focus.
You see, “happiness” can become a very “me” centered term. “I deserve to be happy and God, I know You want me to be happy, too, and here is what does (or doesn’t) make me happy so get to it, Lord.” Surely He loves us and provides good things for our lives but the Bible never says God is obligated to make us “happy” (or that it is even a goal of His). He cares much more about obedience than happiness. Our relationship with God needs to be brought into perspective. It is ALL about Him, not me. It is not a matter of what He can do for us (because He already did infinitely more than we deserve when He died on a cross) but what can I do for Him, who can I be for Him, that will bring glory to His name? We need to remember who is God here – and it isn’t you or me.
Peter wrote in 1 Peter 4:12 that we should not be surprised at the painful trials we may suffer, as though something strange were happening to us. He wants us to clearly know that being a Christ-follower, fully dedicated to what the Lord wants, will sometimes (many times?) be challenging and uncomfortable, even painful. It is not easy to be salt and light in this world. But Jesus assured us that if we seek first His kingdom and it’s righteousness that all that we need, really need, will be provided – and that is a happiness that the world cannot understand.