A friend of mine is struggling with the question “Doesn’t God just want me to be happy?” – how would you respond to that?
Great question! This might surprise some people, but God is not solely concerned with whether we are happy or not at the present moment. We are humans with changing emotions and feelings; that is what makes us human! Happiness, as with any other feeling, is fleeting and does not last. We can draw one of two conclusions from this: either we will never experience eternal happiness or the happiness we experience now is a foreshadowing of what we will experience eternally in Heaven. I believe it is the latter, that any happiness that we experience is just a taste of what is to come in the afterlife if we place our faith in Jesus. And if we believe in Jesus, then we must believe His description of Heaven. “He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” (Revelation 21:4) Certainly that will be a happy time! I like to think of it this way: God is not trying to make everybody happy right now, but He is preparing us now through trials and difficulties so that we can experience true and lasting happiness with Him in Heaven.
This does not mean that God does not want us to be happy, but our happiness is only fleeting if it is not from God. I might be quite happy the day I buy a big screen tv, but soon after, looking at that tv will not bring any happy feelings (especially if I am watching the Detroit Lions on it). The Bible says repeatedly that God is the source of true happiness. One of the Hebrew words for “blessed” can also be translated “happy,” and in the following verses “happy” makes more sense.
“Happy are they whose ways are blameless, who walk according to the teachings of the Lord. Happy are they who keep his statutes and seek him with all their heart.” Psalm 119:1-2
“Happy is he whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sins are covered.” Psalm 32:1
“Happy is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked or stand in the way of sinners or sit in the seat of mockers. But his delight is in the teaching of the Lord, and on his teachings he meditates day and night. He is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither. Whatever he does prospers.” Psalm 1:1-3
Does this mean that Christians will be happy all the time? No. Life is hard and full of sadness, despair, disappointment, and evil. But if we persevere, we can experience happiness and joy in the midst of our difficulties because all of our hopes are placed in Jesus rather than a hopeless and flawed world. In Him we can hope in His promise that He would go to prepare a place for us to be with Him forever. Though we might not be able to imagine it, we know that “No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him.” The thought of that should put a smile on your face.