Does God Want You to be Happy?

You might be thinking that this title sounds familiar and you’d be right. A while back I wrote a post called “The Top 5 Lies Christians Believe,” and among them was the lie that Christians think happiness is a guarantee of following Christ.

I’ve had enough people write me and disagree with me on this particular point that I thought I should address it in its own post.

I’ll be honest, I don’t like this idea–the idea that happiness is not necessarily guaranteed to us believers. I don’t like thinking that God is more concerned with my holiness than my happiness or more concerned with His glory than my good times.

But when I look at the Word and when I listen to the Holy Spirit, I have never been left with the feeling that my happiness is important. That doesn’t mean our happiness is irrelevant to God, but rather less important than we tend to think.

For starters, the word “happiness” in today’s culture holds a vastly different meaning than the type of happiness that the Bible describes. As Americans, we are the worst at believing that happiness is and should be a by-product of, well, life…

…and especially the Christian life.

However, the common understanding of happiness today is based upon external and outside influences. We relate happiness to events, things, places, or people. A new job, a new car, a trip to Hawaii, or our spouse. While these things can and do bring us some level of happiness, it is not the same type of emotion which the Bible describes.

The Bible more accurately describes people who are happy not because of stuff or circumstances, but because of the Lord. Psalm 68:3, for instance, says, “But may the righteous be glad and rejoice before God; may they be happy and joyful.”

It is the righteous here who are happy. It is those who are rejoicing in the Lord who find gladness.

Remember Paul, too? Didn’t he write that whole “I’m content in all circumstances” bit while he was in jail?!

Call it contentment, joy, or what have you. Either way, it is quite different from the limited and circumstantial type of happiness many of us are used to.

Yet, all of this begs the question: Does God want us to be happy?

I’ve had people write me and describe the ways in which they have found real happiness after knowing God. I’ve seen this myself. I have witnessed people who have gone from physically looking ill, depressed, and miserable to people having faces that literally glow.

The difference is, those people’s faces were aglow with the Lord. They were not aglow with a new BMW or a 17oo square-foot condo. Their faces shone with the Light of the Lord.

So, to that end, yes, I do believe that God can and does allow us tremendous happiness in knowing and serving Him. I have never known more contentment, joy, or fulfillment than in knowing and loving Christ….

But (and it’s a big “but”)…

I do not believe that the Christian life is the guarantee of a happy or easy life. The opposite might actually be true. So, while I have seen people radically transformed into beaming, smiling, joy-filled believers, I have also witnessed individuals suffer greatly for following Jesus.

Do we forget that He said He would pit mother against daughter, father against son, brother against brother? Do we forget that Jesus did not come to bring peace, but a sword?

He came to bring life, yes, but following Him also requires daily death to one’s self. This is not always happy, nor should it be.

Yet, what I think it comes down to is determining where our happiness lies? Are we seeking happiness in the daily, trivial, and often uncertain moments of life or are we seeking the happiness found by being rooted in Christ? I believe God is much more apt to grant the latter.

God’s people should be a happy people. We should be beaming, but beaming for Him and because of Him. Knowing this does not mean following after Christ is always a perfectly happy pursuit. It simply means we can trust that, despite the tribulations we will undoubtedly face, we can always trust in Him…and that brings a smile to my face every time.

There is SO much more I could say on this topic, but am limited to a blog post. So let’s hear it…Do you agree or disagree? Do you think God wants us to be happy? Why or why not? What has your own personal experiences with happiness looked like?

37 thoughts on “Does God Want You to be Happy?”

  1. I definitely agree. He said He came to bring not peace but the sword. And really, can you say all the people who were martyred for their faith were happy? That they skipped gleefully to the stake on which they were burned? Or skipped AWAY because “God wants me to be happy, so OBVIOUSLY He can’t want me to go THAT way!”. Nope. I forget off the top of my head how many of the original Apostles were martyred but it was a majorty. And if THEY were not spared, why should we expect to be? Why should we want to be, if we have our priorities correct?

    1. John was the only one that was spared. And only to be given the last book of our bibles. And today, we call rejection from a friend persecution.

    2. Matthew,
      Excellent point and yet, sadly most Christians today are far from danger and will never be martyred. Not that I want to be, but we as a Body should be living lives so counter, so radical, so filled with the Spirit that people hate us.

  2. Many times this topic is viewed through our cultural grids. In the West, where by and large life is nice and comfortable, we take this to be a right.

    All we need to do is chat to some believers in different parts of the world to see that peach and happiness comes from the internal world not external circumstances. Or take a look at a few of the folks in the Bible.

    Happy yes, based on Christ’s work for us. Easy, nice, always fun, no troubles…keep dreaming.


    Heaven is coming!

    1. This!!!! The bastardization of the Western Gospel has stripped the true view of real Christianity. Let’s look at it from a global perspective. Wise words Chris!

      1. A global perspective? Shoot, Moe, why can’t we look at it the way our Father looks at it, and see things as He sees them? I want the faith that Jesus had. I want to relate to His God as He did. I want to do even greater things than He did, and then some! I want to see Life through the eyes and through The Spirit of the One who made it all.

        Give me Jesus. Give me the Jesus that Jesus sees when He looks at His Father. Give me the Jesus that is that image we see as through glass darkly, and who speaks of us to His Father before all the angels around His throne. Everything else is just details.

    2. Chris,
      You make a great point about us viewing happiness as a “right.” Man, I think so many American Christians believe this. It is sad and flies in the face of the Gospel.

      Thanks for commenting!

  3. I think God is much more concernced with our holiness than our happiness. Ultimately, I think, we won’t achieve happiness until we are with him forever. Until then, He has given us joy, with the promise of reward later.

    1. Larry,

      You said:
      “I think God is much more concernced with our holiness than our happiness.”

      Then I am officially screwed, since my holiness and pursuit thereof is sketchy at best, and forced at worst. I can never, never, this side of Heaven exemplify the Holiness of God; I will always fail. But I can definitely walk in sonship, in the freedom to fail He has given all of us.

    2. Larry,
      I somewhat agree, but I would add too that Jesus said he came that we might have life and have it abundantly. That life, He was referring to, was now, here on earth. He offers us abundant life NOW, which many Christians miss, as well. But I think you are right, it is more of a joy in Him.

  4. I 100% agree that God wants us to be happy. But like any good father, He knows that true happiness isn’t always what we think it will be.

    I agree that I don’t think God is ONLY concerned with our holiness which (many think) can only be attained through self-sacrifice and asceticism.

    Like any good father, He says no to things we think will make us happy. We can’t always see why He says no but hindsight is 20/20.

    God definitely wants us to be happy because He delights in us. When we are happy, it makes Him happy. Anyone who thinks otherwise has not received the full revelation of the fatherhood of God. And that’s cool…it will come. Because He’s a good Daddy! :)

    1. Tony,

      You wisely said:
      “Like any good father, He says no to things we think will make us happy. We can’t always see why He says no but hindsight is 20/20.”

      If believers would start there, their lives would be so much more fruitful and fulfilled through Christ. Nicely said, sir.

  5. It might sound like ‘splitting hairs’ but I prefer to say God is committed to our ‘joy’ in him. Like the westminster catechism puts it…

    “The chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy him forever”

    Is God committed to our joy in him? I’d say absolutely He is, 100% of the time, all of the time. But like you said, the key phrase is “in him”. Not our joy in stuff or circumstances. But ‘in him’.

    The problem often with our view of happiness is Jesus is NOT the ultimate treasure. Usually it’s comfort/financial security/relationships e.t.c. Those things aren’t bad but they aren’t central to the gospel.

    What makes the gospel amazing is that Jesus is the ultimate treasure. He is enough. Like the guy who found treasure in a field and sold everything to buy that field, Jesus is more than enough.

    Sounds cliche but its the heart of what we believe and it (or he rather) is the source of infinite, unfathomable and inexhaustible joy and we should pursue that (him and joy in him) with everything in us.

    1. “What makes the gospel amazing is that Jesus is the ultimate treasure. He is enough. Like the guy who found treasure in a field and sold everything to buy that field, Jesus is more than enough” <— there it is!

      Which begs the question, "Would we give everything to get Jesus?" Things that make you go Hmmm!

    2. Sammy,
      Yes and yes! I love everything you wrote and this is the gem: “What makes the gospel amazing is that Jesus is the ultimate treasure.”

      How true this is and how simple, and yet so complex. How scared many of us are to allow Jesus to become our ultimate treasure. We don’t understand in our limited and finite minds how He really can be all…is all…holds all.

      It doesn’t sound cliche at all, because sadly, I think it is a message that far too many believers never hear, and when they do, they disregard it in favor of earthly possessions to fulfill their needs.

  6. “I do not believe that the Christian life is the guarantee of a happy or easy life. The opposite might actually be true. So while I have seen people radically transformed into beaming, smiling, joy-filled believers, I have also witnessed individuals suffer greatly for following Jesus.

    Do we forget that He said that He would pit mother against daughter, father against son, brother against brother? Do we forget that Jesus did not come to bring peace, but a sword?

    He came to bring life, yes, but following Him also requires daily death to one’s self. This is not always happy, nor should it be.”

    Indeed, this is the spiritual and emotional threshing floor that separates sons from the school of casual/religious Christians. Am I always happy in Christ? Yes. Am I always happy with what He says to me? Nope. But His Sovereignty, Lordship, and His position as Master over me suffers not in the slightest.

    It is not a mindset that can be put into a formula, a study group, or a sermon. It comes through adoption and the strong realization that covenant is what binds us to Him, and not our emotional well-being, ease of life this side of Heaven, or puppies and rainbows. He is God even in the midst of the storm, just as He is God in the blazing sunshine.

    His desire for my happiness is an example of His Fatherhood; His desire for my realistic working out of this Salvation is His Godhood. Such a fine line that only He understands and can walk in.

    Good stuff, Nicole.

    1. Donald,
      Well-said. I love the idea you closed with–the mysterious tension between the happiness a Father desires for His children and the process of sanctification really, that the Father brings us into. Gives me something to chew on, that’s for sure.

  7. Does God want us to be happy? Of course he does, but not how we understand it (especially in this American culture). The word bless or blessed means “happy”. So when we bless or are blessed we are happy.

    I find it extremely uncomfortable how we American Christians strive for the words happiness as living comfortable lives while we go to church and do our “work” and expect to live happy lives and nice homes, cars, gadgets, etc.

    What happens when we look at the global condition of Christianity? Those who serve Christ in poverty? What about those who are persecuted for their faith? How about those who have lost their families based on their conversion? My biggest struggles as a Christian is living “comfortably” while others run, hide, die in their faith and yet find their “happiness” in Jesus Christ.

    If we are to love our brethren as ourselves, cry with those who cry, why are we so obsessed with “happiness”. I believe that a lot of that goes back to the “prosperity” movement. Not necessarily based on goods, but based on comfort.

    Did God want Moses to be happy? How about Elijah? Elisha? Abe? Where do you see their happiness compared to ours? I do believe they were “blessed”.

    Happy is another word that has been stripped off its original biblical meaning. I don’t strive to be “happy”, I strive to be blessed. And blessings come from above, from the giver of every perfect gift.

    If I ever think happiness is all there is in Christianity, all I have to do is read Ecclesiastes. What a depressing book. All the joys of life didn’t bring the old man any happiness. And lo and behold, what’s important is the last few verses:

    “Fear God and keep His commandments, For this is man’s all.”

    What do you know, it’s not happiness that God wants from us, he wants obedience. Imagine that.

    1. Moe,

      It’s high time for one of us, (you, myself, Nicole), to write about the calamity known as The American Church. It is the common theme amongst the covenant believers that the American Church is not God’s idea, but man’s.

      Jonathan Cottrell told me one day that he had read/heard someone say something along the lines of:
      –The reason the American Church/Christianity is how it is, is because no one is killing Christians like they used to.–

      Say ‘Amen’ or ‘Oh, me’. :) We became bloated, fattened, and spiritually slothful when one of our predecessors realized that there is money to be made using the Name of Jesus, and there is power to be had over the masses once we start a denomination.

        1. Okay, we can. But you can’t make fun of my patented leopard skin loincloth. It makes me feel special whenever I wear it. (But that’s a blog topic for another day….) Ha!

          Seriously, though. What’s the worst “oppression” or “anti-Jesus prejudice” that we really face as American Christians? What, someone yells about a Nativity Scene on public land? Someone objects to saying “Merry Christmas”? People tell us,”Your Jesus is stupid!”? I mean, we have no clue, NO CLUE, as to what persecution is. Perhaps when that time comes, and the dogs of violence are released upon us, at that time we might really start to “get it” and understand this covenant and what it brings with it.

      1. That quote Donald is:

        “The biggest problem with Christians today is that no one wants to kill them anymore.” Soren Kierkegaard

        It is just soooo good, it hurts. Thing is, he died in 1855, so I wonder what he’d say now. Don’t think I even want to know.

  8. I entirely aggree, and am glad that you posted this. I think the significant thing here are not the details, but the fact that you are on the completely right track. It’s scary that there are people out there who would not understand this basic tenet of Christianity, that happiness is low on the totem pole and that sacrifice and holiness are on the top.
    This reminds me of another dangerous way of thinking about Christ or God. The adage that ‘everything happens for a reason.’ Maybe not so dangerous on it’s surface, but I’m convinced that by this most people really mean ‘everything happens for a good reason.’ The only problem here is that evil does not happen for a good reson, it happens because evil is pure evil, and likes to mess up all the good and glory of God.
    I connect this with happiness because this quote people use in the sense that ‘well, even tho all this bad stuff is happening, it’s really for a good reason, and therefore you will be good and happy in the end.’
    This is such a dangerous tract to follow as well, because God does not promise that bad things will eventually turn into a good and happy= end down the road. Certain individuals could be destined to ‘unhappiness’ in the worldily sense yet pure joy in the Godly sense their entire lives. Happiness is, like you said, a by product, certianly not something to be aimed at with all our might, although all of us are of course guilty of doing so.

    1. Isaiah 45:7-
      “I form the light and create darkness, I bring prosperity and create disaster; I, the LORD, do all these things.”

      Romans 8:28-
      “And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.”

      Neither of these Scriptures is untrue.

      You said: “The only problem here is that evil does not happen for a good reson, it happens because evil is pure evil, and likes to mess up all the good and glory of God.”

      Nope. The Scriptures shoot that mindset down, sir.

  9. Great post Nicole. This is definitely a misconception amongst believers and non-believers. If anything, following Jesus almost guarantees a life of suffering. If we are to follow Him, we will inevitably be following in his footsteps.

  10. Spot on thinking here. I would add to the suggestion to think globally to also think historically. Consider the apostles. Consider the persecution of the first century Christians. Those who suffered under Nero. I doubt that the early church believers would even be having this dialogue. To them it was “It is the way the Master went. Should not the servant tread it as well.” We have it so easy today. Might that be why there’s superficiality in some churches today?
    You may be interested in checking out a contemporary rendering of The Imitation of Christ, a book written in the 1400s and much closer to the early church than we are. There’s a contemporary rendering of this venerable classic that is clear, conversational (between Christ and the pilgrim), compelling. It’s available at Amazon. Title is: The Imitation of Christ:The Beatitudes Edition. There’s also an on-line book study of this book going on right now at You’ll find samplers of the book at that web site.

  11. Nicole, you did a great job with a difficult topic to address in a blog post. As I read, I thought of this verse: “fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” Hebrews 12:2

    It humbles me when I think of how Christ suffered, but He had an end goal in mind: the joy of having others join in His life with the Father. Happiness in this life is temporary, but joy in Him is eternal. I think happiness is good, but not the greatest good or goal in this life.

  12. To add to your conversation on the american church, I would simply add that since we live in an empire, and have (even as non-wealthy people) relative wealth in the “inalienable rights” we are given, it is very easy for us to enjoy our circumstances. To enjoy and, whats more, fall in love with the world. Great music. Great food. Great TV. Pills for every pain. Compartmentalized therapy for every deep woe. I think, by the grace of God, the only time I hear about a vast majority of my congregation’s pain and process to the Lord is when we’re at baptism which (thank God) still has power to open our eyes to the truth of our great need of Him. We don’t think we need Him, even as Christians. Sure we “think” we do in the intellectual afterlife-payoff-eternal kind of way. But does He sustain us. Does He move us. Does He make us desire more of Him. Because if He doesn’t, there isn’t something wrong with His great goodness, but rather something fueling our great blindness.

    We are happy. We’re happy WITHOUT Him. Even though we “accept Him as Lord over our lives.” We allow Him into certain aspects of our lives, and (as with pains of all sorts) numb the parts of our lives we don’t want Him getting His hands on. Sometimes we don’t know we’re even doing it. I would counter your statement by saying that God is MUCH more concerned with our holiness than with the happiness that comes from the love of the world. But through His sanctifying work, we can find Him. And love Him. And through that, His gifts (which are not Him, and should not be worshiped, but which are good, and should be received even as we view Him as more worth while than what He gives) bless us. And one of those gifts is joy in Him. Along with love, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness, and self control. And not in some trite way. But in real, life-giving, meaningful abundance.

  13. P.S. For clarity’s sake, I believe its important to also say that the “Does He sustain us?” question refers primarily to our active role in being sustained in the day to day by Him. Not in salvation. If you are a believer, He is already sustaining you in ways that you can only hope to know one day, that all stem from the Cross. But we are called to a love of Him that breeds our dependence on His Spirit, and not on our own will. It is from that space that I ask “Does He sustain us?” Also, its early, and I forgot some crucial question marks. Oh well. :)

  14. Great post Nicole. (And just so you Americans know… the UK church is much the same!)

    Have you considered a post on the current trend towards a ‘me and Jesus’ faith as opposed to a ‘church and Jesus’ faith. I have long felt uncomfortable about how much Chrisitanity has been ‘individualised’ when what I see in scripture is far more corporate. If I got hold of the fact that I am part of HIS church and HIS body then my own ‘happiness’ may be put on hold as brethren who are genuinely in danger of persecution and poverty become my priority.

  15. I do think God wants us to be happy however I think it is in how we find that happiness through him that we will be truly happy. Jesus promised that there would be many trials and hardships ESPECIALLY because we are Christians and are seeking after God.
    I have recently come to that place of really finding my true happiness and identity in Christ. As a resident in New Mexico I was evacuated almost 2 weeks ago and have lost everything I own to the Little Bear Fire. I have lost everything and yet still have hope for what is to come. I live and work on a Christian campground and it breaks my heart as there were 102 homes just on the camp that are now completely ash. Yet in 2 weeks we will be back to the closest thing of normal that we can and we will be doing what we love and what we know how to do. Serve kids and teens and show them the gospel through how we live and who we are even if we have lost every earthly possession no one can take our God away.

  16. There seem to be a lot of verses that talk about happiness & getting the desires of our hearts if we follow God (especially in the old testament) but the Bible also says that He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. So I think it is about having joy (I think about Paul- he went throught a lot and he still had joy. “I rejoice in my sufferings” ? what! wow.) because Jesus is in our hearts regardless of the circumstances we find ourselves in.

    I feel like God wants me to be joyful… and when I am not maybe it’s because I just don’t know what being joyful really means… I think I have some more renewing of the mind to do! Then perhaps I will change my mind in regards to what I think will bring me joy? If that makes any sense!

  17. I agree that happiness is not indicative that all is well with one’s life in Christ but lately it has been a constant struggle. I’m not talking about a short while then a return to good times. I’m talking about a decade of endless struggle, stress,and sorrow. Sometimes when I see other Christian with many good things and my hands are empty-again-I wonder if God has something against me. I have heard of testing but this is more like going through a meat grinder-with the consequence of feeling like human hamburger. I think I getting weary of the walk. :s

  18. Well i am hoping he does, especially that i don’t have a love life right now. many of us men that are Alone right now are very much hoping to meet a good woman to share our life with.

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