Doesn’t God Want Me to be Happy?
Our great nation was founded on the belief that man has an inalienable right to pursue happiness. People come from other countries to pursue the vague concept of “The American Dream.” What is that dream?
For some it’s financial wealth. For others, The American Dream is a single family home with a white picket fence. Others think The American Dream is to become a successful business owner.
I don’t proclaim that any of these inherently wrong (though some make it Biblically challenging to truly seek salvation). However, all of those measurements of happiness are faulty in one specific way. They define happiness as something measured by things others pursue, and those resources are limited.
Bear with me as I attempt do articulate the fundamental flaw in the adea that “everyone has the right to be happy.”
If happiness is money, there is only so much money in the world. For you to have more, would require someone else to have less. This is because money is a resource. Our national debt skyrockets more and more every year because we continue to confuse credit and money, and they’re not. (Tangentially, credit is also a limited resource.) One may say with perhaps even an earnest heart that if we all just shared our money, we’d all have enough. I’m not economically wise enough to state if that’s possible, but here’s where that idea of everyone being “happy” starts to fall apart. You see, I’m absolutely content in what I have. I have a home (through a mortgage). Our family has two cars. My wife and I each have employment. So we must be happy right? Well, we are, but we’re still striving to obtain more. We’re looking for ways to reduce our expenses and increase our earnings. This is wise financial discipline really. But if one could ever have the vague idea of “enough,” they’d still seek more. That’s where the flaw becomes known. Happiness is a concept that belies the idea that one could have more or less. It’s definition is simply a state of being. Therefore, you either are, or you are not.
It’s this simple argument that I make to assert that money can’t make you happy because the fact that we have any should then be enough, but we pursue more. This same logic applies to a business. Economics is pretty simple. I you want a business to be successful, some other business will eventually fail. If you sell breaks and become the best break business ever, every customer you earn is another customer a different break company loses.
That’s usually when someone says something to the effect of, “well of course money isn’t happiness.” Ok. We’ll leave that topic and move to another.
Happiness is a person’s right to do and be who they want to be.
Let’s be blunt. If we as a society were required to let anyone pursue whatever they wanted, we’d have to let murderers kill whoever they wanted. Before you just shrug and say, “That’s not what I mean,” think. We either live in a society that demands those living in that society follow a set of rules or we don’t. And if we agree that rules (such as those against murder) are necessary, we then have to acknowledge that there are things that are wrong and things that are right.
I hope that can put aside any argument that “People should be able to do whatever makes them happy.”
But what about those areas deemed more “gray” in the eyes of society. The Bible has quite a few lists of things that are wrong. There are things that are abominable in the eyes of God. (Proverbs 6:16-19)
We’ve already discussed the ten commandments, some of which clearly state things that should never be done.
1 Corinthians Chapter 6 gives a very plain list of sinful traits that ensure a person will never see the kingdom of God (unless that person repents and turns from said sins).
The simple truth is there are things one shouldn’t do. What religion one follows and what nation they live in may alter the agreed-to standards of right and wrong, but anyone who just takes a minute to think about what the meaning of the words “People should be able to do whatever makes them happy” really mean, they’d have to acknowledge that’s simply not true.
That’s when the prepositional phrase “as long as it doesn’t hurt anyone” usually pops up. What is hurt? Because there’s no way anyone could honestly mean “offend.” The way our nation is today, we demand quite a lot of people deny their offenses for the sake of letting people “pursue happiness.” In fact, a person offended at another person’s “pursuit of happiness” is seen as the villain. Yet that same person is only pursuing happiness, and doesn’t it hurt to be unhappy?
This reveals that some consider happiness as the ability to do what he or she wants without anyone being bothered or bothering him about it. But that’s circular thinking. It lead right back to the top of this very post.
I’m not even going to try and articulate wright or wrong. If you’re Christian, read the above passages and see for yourself what God’s word declares as wrong. If you’re not Christian, surely you have an idea on what is wrong and what isn’t. I’m not going to convince you otherwise. The goal up to this point has been to show how impossible it is to have happiness if doing relies on others (or those others not mocking you) or resources.
If you can at least agree that happiness can’t be attained by accumulating things or doing things (based on the information above), the next logical question has to be, “Where does happiness come from?”
Call it what you want: Joy, Pleasure, Happiness. I’m not going to get semantic in this. Whatever you want to call it, how do you get it?
The Christian answer is Jesus Christ. “He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” (Revelation 21:4)
If we can’t articulate what happiness is, I submit to you an alternative. How would you like a life free of death, mourning, crying or pain? Even if I’d want more stuff, a guaranteed life free of that particular list of stuff sounds pretty good to me. Sign me up!
Does that mean a Christian doesn’t suffer those things? Of course we do! Those promises aren’t for the “current things” (this life), but only when those become the “former things” (the next life).
This reveals two things. 1) Nothing of this world is truly worth anything. Does that mean I’m going to stop saving money? No! But it does mean I won’t put the accumulation of wealth above following Christ.
The trouble arrises when the pleasures of the flesh blind us to the real source of happiness that is God. But anything of this world is finite. Money comes and go. Jobs come and go. Lovers come and go. Health comes and goes. Your body is born and then it decomposes. It’s all temporary.
So here’s where you have to make a decision. If you don’t believe in a God, live it up! I mean that. If the only happiness you’re ever going to attain is limited to what this world can offer during your lifetime, “Eat, drink and be merry, for tomorrow we die.” (1 Corinthians 15:32)
But if you don’t believe in God, my heart breaks for you. If all you can have is what’s in this world, then I weep for you because there is absolutely no promise you’ll get anything. You have no real hope. Even in this great nation the only thing you’re offered is the right to pursue it.
I’d be devastated on behalf of anyone who pursues happiness his whole life never to obtain it, but I assert that’s exactly what will happen if one continues to measure happiness by wealth, lovers, job status, or a home. Because if these things gave happiness (a state of being happy) why wouldn’t you ever eventually find the need to stop pursuing? After all, if I want to find my keys and then I find them, I don’t keep looking for my keys do I? No, I have that which I sought.
So does God want you to be happy?
Consider the above source of happiness. If happiness is eternal life without death, mourning, crying or pain, then does God want everyone to be saved?
Yes. There are plenty of verses that say this. 1 Timothy 2:4 says it plainly. God desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.
Now, we aren’t going off on that tangent! You know the one. “Well, if God wants us to do it, he can just make us!” I’ll discuss free will in a future chapter. For now, we have to stay on topic.
Yes, God wants you to be happy, but that happiness is found only in accepting Christ as your savior.
In the next chapter, we’ll discuss what happiness we can have on this earth, but if you agree that everything of this earth will eventually fade, we must then agree that we should seek eternal happiness, which only comes in the next life.
For our panel: Why doesn’t God want people to have things? How can one truly know that happiness comes from a life dedicated to pleasing God? What are the consequences for refusing to turn from sin because that sin “makes you happy”?
3 thoughts on “Musings on Christianity 3”
1. Why doesn’t God want people to have things?
I wouldn’t say that God doesn’t want people to have things. Sometimes he does bless people with things (in large part so that they can bless others – 2 Corinthians 9:6-11), and he has created some things for our enjoyment (1 Timothy 4:1-4). The problem is when (as you said) those things or the pursuit of them are our primary source of happiness or highest priority in life (1 Timothy 6:6-10). God calls us to pursue his kingdom and righteousness, not the “American dream” (Matthew 6:33 & surrounding context)
2. How can one truly know that happiness comes from a life dedicated to pleasing God?
Intellectually one knows by taking God at his word when he says anything we give up in this world is more than worth it (e.g. the Revelation passage you quoted, Mark 10:29-30). We truly know if we step out in faith and start living it (Psalm 34:8 & context)…and it is when we suffer the loss of earthly things that it becomes very real (2 Corinthians 12:7-10).
3. What are the consequences for refusing to turn from sin because that sin “makes you happy”?
Jesus is pretty blunt about that one: Mark 8:34-38 – such a person is on the path to losing their own soul.
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Thank you for your thoughts. All very clear scripture. Sometimes people want to look away from scripture. I’m guilty of it as well. But by studying God’s word, we can refocus our priorities accordingly.