Should God Alone Make You Happy?

Recently, in a church gathering the discussion of whether or not “God is enough” came up. Some passionately explained that “God is enough” for them and that we, as believers, don’t need anything else.

I, however, just as passionately disagree. Yes, I concede that God is enough–or rather He can be enough, but He isn’t meant to be “enough.” God never intended for us to walk through life with nothing but Him.

The discussion reminded me of this post I wrote quite a while back. Do you agree or disagree? 

Christians don’t throw around the word “happy” too often. We are cautious of the word because we think it sounds earthly, temporal, and fleeting. We much prefer the word “joy.” Joy is of God. Joy is rooted in something more than a mere mood or a passing event. In fact, the joy of the Lord is our strength, so says the Bible.

But, is it so bad to just want to be happy? I mean, happiness is still cool right? It’s okay for Christians to be happy, isn’t it? Personally, I’d take a big ‘ol plate of  happiness any day of the week.

Filling up your life with things that make you happy is healthy, and yet I know some Christians for whom this is especially difficult. They operate under the belief that God alone is suppose to make you happy…and nothing else. Happiness, they believe, should come from Him and nowhere else.

Is it sacrilegious for me to say that I disagree with that statement? God says we shall worship no other god. I’m all for that commandment but does that mean that God is to be the sole source of our happiness? Can we find happiness elsewhere?

Dennis Prager, my daily sage, says that God is certainly necessary, but not sufficient to supply all of our happiness. God Himself said, “It is not good for man to be alone.”

He did not create one man and then leave him to walk through the garden alone for very long. Adam needed Eve. God saw this and supplied his need, not by more of His Holy presence, but in the form of a woman (women=happiness. I’m just sayin’…)

Prager puts it this way:

“However, as necessary as faith in God is for our ethics, our emotional and psychological well being, our sense of purpose, and our ability to stand firm in a world that pulls us in every direction, God is not enough. We also need people.”

Relationship and intimacy is what God created us to experience with Himself, but also with others. It is our relationships that in many ways provide us with comfort, counsel, hope, laughter, compassion. It is a friend calling just to say hi, a kind word, a hug, an affirmation that you are loved.

I cannot imagine having gone through life without those friends and family with whom I have been able to celebrate the big stuff, laugh over the funny stuff, and cry over the sad stuff.

People, however, don’t only need other people. We also need God, beyond measure. Prager points out that “Many theists and many atheists are so committed to their respective worldviews that they cannot entertain the thought that their belief does not answer all human needs.”

Humanists would argue we only need people. The religious argue we should only need God. The truth is we need both.

I would go one step further and suggest that we need not only God and others to supply us with happiness, but we also need things. That’s right–things. Now, I’m not suggesting we need more stuff. Americans, especially, have plenty of stuff, but we do need other things that can contribute to our daily happiness.

What makes you smile? What geeks you out, over-joys you, gets you jumping up and down? A hobby, an interest? For me, it’s politics, design blogs, serving, fashion, film, discipling, food, travel, this blog. These are just some of the things that bring me great happiness.

And the truth is, I need God, people, and outward interests to help bring me complete happiness. My joy, however rocky it may be at times is rooted in Chris yes, but my daily happiness comes from many places. I am so thankful to God that in His wisdom He created us to crave connectedness and closeness with others and to delight in the pleasures to be found in life. In doing so we gain a happier more fulfilling life and that I believe makes God happy, as well.

Do you think God is enough for happiness? Do relationships supply you with happiness as well? What else, besides God brings you happiness?

41 thoughts on “Should God Alone Make You Happy?”

  1. well…there isn’t really too much more to add to your reasoning. I totally agree with your thought of not only basing your happiness and joy on either God or people but on both. I guess the great challenge is to discern when we need another refill of God-centred joy.

    If I didn’t get it wrong somewhere along the way God kind of also created us for relationship, not only with Him, but also for fellowshipping with people.
    As much as a glass of good wine with a good friend, sitting on the porch looking up to a starlit sky on a summer’s night fills me with utmost happiness, so does a deep and heartfelt quiet time with the one and only.

    1. Julia,
      That is great discernment. When do we need the next “refill of God-centered joy”?

      When do we need a refilling of the Spirit but instead we are seeking happiness from perhaps the wrong places?

      I too enjoy the simple pleasures of life–wine, good food, friends and family. God fulfills my innermost parts, however. I am so thankful that He has given us both–pleasures here and now as well as His presence and relationship.

  2. Julia, I’m so with you that God created us for relationship. It’s important that your deep, foundational and constant joy comes from God and that He’s your rock, but He’s blessed us with so many other sources of happiness and enjoyment, and I think it’s a way of glorifying Him when we make the most of them!

    Hypothetically, if I lived alone in a cave with no other form of stimulation, yes God would be enough for happiness and He would be totally sufficient for me. But most of us don’t live in caves, and He’s given most of us a lot of other sources of happiness!

    Other things that bring me happiness:
    Twinings Earl Grey tea
    Bacon & eggs in the morning
    Talking for hours with my closest friends
    Laughing until I cry
    Snow (I’m British, it’s a novelty for us!)
    Getting all dressed up to go out clubbing
    Snuggling up under my duvet with tea, chocolate and a film
    Having a long lie-in

    1. Rachel,
      Great point–we do glorify Him when we cherish and honor those relationships! I never thought of that!

      I love your list by the way. Wonderful and simple joys. I have to ask though, what is a “lie-in”? I assume you mean sleeping in or sleeping late. Another British-ism for me to learn.

  3. I think as Creator if He didn’t want us to find happiness in other places He would have made us differently. There is also the idea of free will or free choice to consider. If we couldn’t find happiness outside of God what choice would there be? We would choose God and happiness almost every time.

    It makes me happy when I see my kids happy, even if I had nothing to do with it. I think God, the Father feels similar.

    1. Ken, I see your argument as far as free will is concerned. It makes sense that since we have to choose God or choose other outside sources for happiness. C.S. Lewis, however, argues that because God made us to be in realtionship with Him, that we cannot find happiness apart from Him. He says: “God cannot give us a happiness and peace apart from Himself, because it is not there. There is no such thing.”

      I know what Lewis is saying too. People who do not know God seek to find happiness in other places–sex, money, fame, etc. But I wouldn’t use the word happiness here, as Lewis does. I’d argue that real joy and peace cannot be found apart from God. I do think, though, that a lot of people who don’t know the Lord are “happy,” as it were.

      What do you think?

  4. I think we need God First and then that happiness will spill or overflow into all aspects of our life…

    think of it as a glass of water being filled up…if i fill my cup with the happiness from God and keep pouring more of him in my cup…eventually it will spill into my happiness in relationships and passions and family and hobbies and work…and everything my hands and feet do…

    It’s what the psalmist constantly sought after…the pleasure of God in all Things.

  5. I think the key is being content in God alone. Other things and people can make us happy, but if all that was stripped away we need to be content with God’s will in our lives, even if that means the removal of some of the things that make me happy. If God didn’t want us to find happiness in anything other than him, he wouldn’t have made babies so stinkin cute, nor would he have given us such a huge capacity for happiness.

  6. Erwin McManus once pointed out that if God really wanted us to be alone, then Genesis 2 would be dramatically different.

    Because it was just the human and God.

    And GOD said, “IT IS NOT GOOD that the human is alone.”

    So God made a second human. and THEN creation was finished. THEN it was “very good”.

    That’s why the Psalmist says “Taste and see that the Lord is good!” When I eat steak, I know that there is a God and that God loves me!

    The whole point of stuff – as you rightly note – is to point us back to God. We creatures are to be awed by the power and provision of our creator.

    Good words here. Thanks!!

  7. I think God COULD be enough for our happiness but that He has provided other people to fill that need within us as well. If I was trapped on a desert island with a never-ending supply of Arizona iced tea, Swedish Fish and Philadelphia Cheesesteaks I think God would make himself more than enough for my happiness until I get picked up and taken back to civilization. If I wanted to go.

    But as is, we need each other. And we should be there for each other reflecting Him.

  8. My take in it is that as God created everything the things we find pleasure in have the essence of Him in, so we can enjoy them and enjoy God at the same time. I tend to make happiness the goal in itself, which causes problems with my relationship with God when things aren’t going well. So i am trying to stop that as the main aim and choose joy even when I am not happy.

    As an aside, it’s interesting that things that make other people happy- eg. coffee, are things that would make me very unhappy!

  9. Reading makes me happy. Good food makes me happy. My kids and my husband make me happy. Hanging out with friends makes me happy. Making someone laugh makes me happy. Watching good movies and shows make me happy. And getting a new revelation of God or hearing from Him makes me happy. I once heard someone say that God is more interested in our holiness than in our happiness. And while I think that is true, I think a better way of saying it would be “God is more interested in our holiness because He knows it will lead to true happiness.” And these things that make me happy can make God unhappy if I look to them instead of Him for true meaning in my life.

  10. Something I just thought of….we, as Christians, are all part of the body of Christ. So, technically God AND other people can make us happy without one excluding the other!

  11. There is a lot here and many great comments. I will comment on one point. the Genesis reference “it is not good for a man to be alone” is only the beginning. Throughout the scriptures God reveals that it is in our experiences and interaction that he reveals himself to us. In Mat 25 Jesus goes as far as to say that as you treat the least of these you treated me. So I guess I am offering that in one sense yes we need more than God to be happy but I am also saying that in order to know God and find our joy or happiness in who he truly is we need to know, serve and love others. This is a kingdom circle.

  12. Nicole,

    I disagree. I disagree because the one true desire of our hearts is Christ, and only He brings total peace, contentment, happiness, joy, and love everlasting. He is the only water that can put that fire out. He is the only medicine that can cure our illnesses. It’s HIm. It always has been Him and ever shall be Him.

    I quite like your husband. He makes me happy when I talk t him. Bu I only know your husband because of Christ Jesus in our lives. No Jesus = no Jonathan (for me). Even when I find happiness outside of Christ (so to speak), that happiness is because of Him.

    Funny how that works.

    So I respectfully disagree. I appreciate you taking the effort to reconcile the secular with The Divine in this posting, but it has fallen very short and flat in my eyes. Sorry, my friend….I guess I simply don’t see it the way you do. ;)

  13. I think Tom, who posted above, put things beautifully. His answer actually makes sense. I’ve been struggling lately with this very question—“is God enough?”—and my efforts to make peace with the fact that He ISN’T enough for me have so far been fruitless. So many Christians I admire stress that God, and God alone can satisfy and bring joy and happiness, and intellectually I agree with that, but my own personal experience in trying to find absolute happiness in God alone has been an abysmal failure so far. Perhaps in a close-knit community of believers it’s possible, but when you don’t have that, and you feel disconnected from the Body of Christ, it’s very, very difficult. Which is why I think Tom’s response makes sense.

    As the Scriptures say, it’s not good for man to be alone. So apparently God left a need in humans that He intended to fill only through other humans. And that is why isolation and loneliness are so incredibly detrimental to one’s spiritual, emotional and mental health. If God alone wanted to fill that particular need, I’m sure He could, but He chooses to fill that need with other people. So I guess what I’m saying is that, at least in this life, God is NOT enough for our happiness in the sense of relationship. If He were, we would not need each other, nor would the Body of Christ even be necessary, in my opinion. And I would respond to Donald Borsch’s comment above by pointing out that while it may be true his relationship with someone is BECAUSE of Jesus Christ, would it not also be true that his relationship with another believer is PART of his relationship with Jesus Christ? Can we really separate the two?

    Just food for thought.

    1. Marie,

      Yes, I would separate the two. My relationships, this side of Heaven, all take a back seat to the one I have with Christ Jesus through The New Covenant. And I do not say that lightly or with any condescending arrogance. I say that with the full awareness of what it means.

      I am a husband and a father. I walk in covenant with my bride. I would kill for my children. I would never leave them nor forsake them, since our Father wouldn’t either. But if it ever came down to me having to choose between them and Him, they would lose. My bride would do likewise, and I respect her greatly for that.
      (However, let us be honest here: will our Father ever actually put any of us in that position? I strongly doubt it. He does say that if we do not hate our own families that we are not ready for The Kingdom, but His wisdom explains what He meant to those who are listening.)

  14. Nicole, I enjoyed reading this today, and I agree with what you are saying. I do however disagree with your wording. I believe God is “All Sufficient” in that He provides for us the “other things” in our lives. It is through Him and because of Him; in which we find happiness in relationships, people in our lives, and even our “things”. Without HIs all sufficiency, His Grace, and His Mercy; these things that provide happiness would not exist.

    1. Daniel said it much better than I.

      My happiness is rooted, **exclusively**, in the things our Father has given to me through relationships, circumstances, and desires of mine own heart (which are of course desires He puts there).

      1. Donald, Sorry, but I don’t see how Nicole was disagreeing with your point here, at all. I believe you missed her point. I also don’t believe she was trying to reconcile the secular with the Divine. The whole Sacred/Secular divide is an ungodly mindset that is a fruit of the Age of Enlightenment (Atheistic). It’s also tainted with the Sadducee ideology that causes everything that isn’t spiritual in nature as sinful. So much of what we say and do to “guard the faith” has done nothing but take the life out of living faith and make it not much more than an ideology.

    2. Daniel, I agree with the “heart” of what you (and also Donald are responding. However, I sincerely and respectfully say that I believe both of you completely missed the point that Nicole was making. God, Himself, is All Sufficient, in the literal definition of what that means. But, this article is not minimizing that, in how I was reading it. God was, in fact, the All Sufficient One for Adam, as well. But, God saw that there was something on a “practical level” missing from his life. God is, of course, the One who “brings about” the answers to our needs, but I don’t see how this article was taking away from that.

  15. I believe God is indeed the source of all we need especially if everything good comes from Him (James 1:17). The Truth and our feelings collide constantly because a lot of the time feelings are motivated through the experiences of our flesh. This isn’t necessarily bad but we should be watchful as our hearts are wicked and will deceive. Because something feels good and isn’t “godly”, neither proves nor disproves God as the source. This truth serves as a benchmark so that things we enjoy especially as it feeds our flesh cannot overtake us. My two cents!

  16. Nicole, I appreciate your thoughts here. I believe they are akin to something I emphasize in my own life and that of the congregation God has given me. And, I have to respectfully “disagree” with Donald. I do not believe this piece is an effort to reconcile the secular with the Divine. The whole secular/sacred divide is not biblical at all…and…(wait for it)… I believe is in the top 10 list of the devil’s greatest deceptions. :) Our understandings of how to frame the subject with words is going to be a little different from person to person, but the way you have done so here hasn’t fallen flat for me at all. I totally get and agree with the spirit of what you are saying. I’ve also been re-discovering something else of late in my ancient life that’s injected my daily experiences with a naturally supernatural quality. It’s this: Since I am one with Christ, I don’t think so much in the terms of “re-fills” as if His life is something separate from me. Instead, I think it terms of practical lifestyle “stay-fulls.” Even in the midst of stressful life-sappers, the reality that I am always in all circumstances drawing on Him (like the branches and Vine) I don’t have to “re-fill” as such. I believe that thinking is the result of the secular/sacred divide myth. But, then…what I’ve said here isn’t theological. It’s just expressing (with my words and understanding) what is working pretty well for me.

  17. first off you and your husband make me happy, your lives are infectious (in a good kinda way), people that smile make me happy, people that are soft hearted (hearted is my word) make me cry in a happy way, my wife (shez crazee) make me happy, my grandsons trip my happiness trigger big time, and my darling adult (kids) and my truly off the wall son-in Love makes me happy, sunrises and boom I’m a happy, good food (check), good wine (hell yeah), watching bluebirds you guessed it, music…of music fo shore, special relationships the ones that could call ya at 3 am and you would be happy to chat with ’em, yep they make me happy….and our Father in Heaven (He really is a soft hearted) make me cry and be happy at the same time. life…makes me happy

  18. Just a thought:

    I am seeing folks use the Scripture of The Lord saying that it’s not good for man to be alone. So He created Eve out of Adam and BOOM, Adam was no longer alone. But that in and of itself does not confer happiness. I don’t see how The Lord creating Eve for Adam means happiness. He did what He did so Adam would not be alone, but since He Himself was with Adam, was Adam alone, or was Adam merely unable to relate to God our Father since He is The Ultimate and Adam, while created perfect, was not.

    Besides, The Lord said it wasn’t good for man to be alone, so He created the first wife. Marriage, therefore, logically would imply happiness. Think on that.

  19. I agree. This post is such a relief for me. I think that if God wanted us to only find happiness and joy from Him, then He wouldn’t have created everything else on this earth. When I find happiness and joy in the things that I love, like running, singing, and reading a book, in the end those feelings are turned to God because I recognize that He has provided those things for me. There have been several friendships I have had where I know God provided that person for me or vise versa. When I look back I am so thankful that He did provide and that gives me joy.

    I have struggled in the past with not feeling content with only God and wondered if I was just living in sin because I wanted to lay back and watch a movie instead of sitting in deep prayer with my Lord. But I think now that God gives us these things to do, experience, and love because He knows that we are created in His image and we are not beings that can just sit in worship 24/7.

  20. I think we’re splitting hairs. All things that are truly “good” (and therefore give us happiness) originate from God. Therefore whatever makes us happy on earth comes from the Father.

  21. I always go back to flowers. There are 400,000 different species of flowering plants. 400,000 DIFFERENT FLOWERS. Why? God could have accomplished his goal with one kind of beautiful flower but he made 399,999 more. He did it to bring Himself and us joy. 400,000 kinds of joy. He created us to enjoy Him AND His creation. So I drink apple cider (which I love), smell the flowers (which I love), look at the waterfalls and fall leaves (which I love) and read a good mystery novel (which I love) and I try to see God in it all.

  22. I love this, Nicole. It’s funny, I was just writing about joy yesterday and all of my baggage associated with that word. I’m learning to lean into delight, to revel in the beauty and the love and the connection and the smiles and not worry about whether or not it’s “holy” for me to be happy.
    Thank you for sharing this!

  23. I’m not really sure God cares about our happiness. I do agree on the necessity of a relationship with God and people, but I don’t see happiness as being a big factor in how he views us.

  24. Hi Nicole! I am coming over from Wanda’s blog.

    I absolutely think that we can experience God/joy/happiness in other people. God lives in each one of us, and so we are that Spirit of him. And one of the fruits of the Spirit is joy, so we should find joy in others.

    Being happy with what God has made is a powerful tool for praise. Nothing good is made without him! I love my iPOD when I take a walk. Thank you Lord for this technology! It makes me very happy.

    So nice to find your blog today. Have a great weekend loving God in all his ways :)

  25. I like this. I get so tired of everything being spiritualized. Guess what – I like to dance around the house, I like to feed the chickens, I like the sound of rain, I like to hear my grandson’s voice, and I think that is quite alright with God.

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