YES, ABSOLUTELY, 100% GUARANTEED, NO DOUBT ABOUT IT, God wants us to be happy!
We all know happiness when we feel it, but where does happiness come from? What makes a person happy? What makes you happy? Does it come from being able to do whatever you want to do whenever you want to do it? Some people must think so because oftentimes when a person says, “Doesn’t God want me to be happy?!?!” what they really mean is “Doesn’t God want me to do whatever I want to do regardless of how it affects others or the Lord”.
I have two children, ages five and two. I want my children to be happy. We goof around a lot at our house – we wrestle, talk with funny voices, have glow in the dark dance parties (yes, I did just say that), and run around. I love hearing my kids laugh and I love working toward my children’s happiness. I consider it an absolute must for parents to work toward their children’s happiness, but working for our children’s happiness can’t simply mean letting them do whatever they want to do or expressing themselves however they want to express it. That would be crazy! In my family, there are times when the thing that my son most wants to do is smack his older sister right upside the head. Am I working against his happiness when I correct this? No, not at all. Likewise, there are times when the thing that we most want to do is something that would displease the Lord. Is the Lord working against our happiness when he rebukes us? Absolutely not.
Happiness is not just doing whatever we want to do but also wanting to do what we ought to do. Happy is the man who wants to come home to the wife he ought to come home to. Happy is the child who wants to share the toys he ought to share.
To take this a step further, if happiness isn’t just doing what we want then happiness doesn’t just come from finding the freedom to do what we want (like more money to afford what we want, or a divorce in order to be with the person we truly want, etc…). True happiness comes from valuing what we ought to and therefore comes from learning to rightly relate to ourselves, others, and God. When a child throws a temper tantrum at the thought of sharing a toy what he is really saying is, “The world revolves around me. Please stop distracting me from me”. That child is relating wrongly to himself, others, and especially God and that child will NEVER truly be happy. Evidently some people don’t ever outgrow this mindset and consequently still aren’t happy?
My wife and I love to give our children tangible things like gifts because we love making our kids happy. But, to paraphrase Doug Wilson in “Father Hunger”, there are also times when it is necessary to give our children things that they can’t tangibly touch – things like a good work ethic, the ability to deny themselves, respect others, submit to authority, etc… I want my children to be happy in their future marriages therefore I want to train them to deny themselves now. No person is happy in marriage without the ability to deny self. I want my children to be happy in their future submission to the Lord therefore I want to train them to learn to obey authority now. I want my children to be happy in their future work therefore I want to give them a good work ethic now – without which no one is happy going to work. Their happiness is exactly what I have in mind when I am playing with them, teaching them, and even disciplining them. There are times when my children are thinking wrongly about self, others, or God and it will stop them from experiencing true happiness. For the sake of their long-term happiness I teach and discipline. In the same way our heavenly Father is willing to discipline us for the sake of our own joy and happiness.
Jesus made some happiness statements in the Beatitudes. The name ‘Beatitudes’ is actually Latin for “state of happiness”. It got this name because the word for ‘blessed’ (which is found in all of the Beatitudes) also means ‘happy’. In the Beatitudes Jesus is appealing to our own happiness by teaching us how to relate properly to God, others, and ourselves. Jesus also shows us that we should view short-term discomfort in light of long-term happiness. Read the following beatitudes. Which one hits home to you? By the way, I changed each ‘Blessed’ to ‘Happy’.
[Mat 5:3-12 ESV]
3 “Happy are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
4 “Happy are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.
5 “Happy are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.
6 “Happy are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.
7 “Happy are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.
8 “Happy are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.
9 “Happy are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.
10 “Happy are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 11 “Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. 12 Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.