Does God want us to be miserable or happy?
I’ve heard from the platform on more than one occasion the idea that the Christian’s lot in life is to suffer. We know that as Christians, and even as human beings in general, that we can’t escape suffering. Most people will encounter suffering of some kind, whether it’s physical or emotional, at some point in their lives. I once heard someone say from the platform, “If you’re not suffering, there’s something wrong and you should be worried.” That really got me to thinking. Is he right? I’ve suffered in the past, but I’m not suffering now. Should I go out and look for suffering? My answer is an emphatic “No!” I believe we can learn from trials in our lives but that does not mean that God wants us to go around hanging our heads low like a miserable group of people. We have so much in life to be thankful for, and I believe God wants us to be happy in this life, not just in the next one. Achieving happiness, joy and contentment is not just a nice topic. I feel strongly that our community needs to hear more about the positive aspects of being a follower of Christ. We need to reassure each other when our faith needs a boost.
As for me, I’ve had my share of trials in my life; but as a result of God seeing me through them, I’ve learned that the peace of God that surpasses all understanding is definitely achievable. Any experiences in my past have made me very comfortable with the person I am today and have made me empathetic to others. I believe happiness is a choice, and I choose to be happy, no matter what the present circumstances may be. Do I always feel happy? No. Sometimes I start to feel sorry for myself and end up crying out to God for help. Then, I wipe my tears and get on with my life.
I’ve found in my own life that it’s the little things in life that make me happy, such as going outside for a walk in God’s beautiful creation. I do some of my best talking to God when I’m walking alone, and I feel especially close to Him when I’m outdoors. In my younger days, when I would go on a walk, it would be with this type of purpose in mind. I would say to myself, “I need to reach the top of that mountain.” I would focus on the trail and virtually march ahead, focusing just on what was ahead of me. Now, I tell myself to slow down and to drink in the beauty around me. I open my ears to hear the birds chirping. I breathe deeply of the fragrant aromas of the grass and flowers. My purpose these days is to actively use the senses that God has given to me and to enjoy each moment as it comes.
Another activity that gives me a great deal of joy is listening to music and singing. I have no problem singing alone in my car or blasting my music at home and singing my heart out to God. The other drivers probably look at me funny from time to time, but who cares?! I’m having a good old time. I also find happiness in encouraging someone who needs it, being with a loved one, helping someone in need, or swinging on the swings like I’m a kid again. Those are the things in life that make me the happiest, and they don’t cost me anything, maybe just a little of my time. The idea is to live our lives in the present moment, not dwelling on the past or worrying about the future. We never know when our physical capacities may be diminished due to age, illness or injury. Make full use of what you have now.
It’s also so important to spend time with our loved ones as much as we possibly can. Don’t wait until something serious happens to them to reach out to them. Being a true friend is so valuable. A man who is very dear to my heart lost his wife to cancer. He said that many people came up to him after she had passed away and told him that they wish they had known his wife was suffering because they would have spent more time with her. His response to them was that they shouldn’t wait for someone to have a life-threatening illness to be there for them. The point is to spend time with your loved ones now, today, and as much as possible. Choose to be happy, alone and with others.
You may say, “Well, that’s great that you choose happiness for yourself, but what about me and my circumstances?” I don’t know what each of you is going through in your life right now, and it may be very difficult for you to be happy, but I believe if you’re not happy now you can be one day by making that choice. The question is, does scripture back me up in saying all of this? Does God really want us to be happy? Let’s look at some verses to see for ourselves.
First of all, let’s look at our reading in Philippians 4, which is one of my favorite chapters in the Bible. It’s chock-full of good stuff. Look at verse 4. Paul says we are to “rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice.” The word translated “rejoice” is chairo (khah-ee-ro), meaning to be cheerful or calmly happy. From a human standpoint, did Paul have a reason to be calmly happy? He wrote this from prison. If I were in prison, would I be cheerful? To be honest – probably not. He wrote in verse 6 that we shouldn’t be anxious about anything and that we should give our fears over to God through prayer and thanksgiving. If we do that, we can find the peace of God that surpasses all understanding.
Peacemakers pursue peace. It’s possible to find peace in life if we give our cares to God to handle. He will get us through them, whether we are in prison or experiencing a less life-threatening trial. The God of peace will be with us if we pursue the following from verse 8: “whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, and whatever is commendable.” Doesn’t that remind you of the Beatitudes? Remember that we are to be pure in heart and to thirst after righteousness. Paul’s message to us is no different than Jesus’ keys to happiness in Matthew 5. In verse 11, Paul says that he learned to be content in whatever situation he was in. The key to his contentment is found in verse 13: “I can do all things through him who strengthens me.” We can find contentment in our lives too if we ask Jesus to come alongside us to help us along the road. He wants to share our burdens; he will keep us strong.
Paul mentions joy a number of times during his letter to the Philippians. The definition of the Greek word chara (khar-ah), which is translated as “joy,” means having a “calm delight.” Knowing that we are not necessarily expected to always jump for joy but to have a calm delight in our lives makes being joyful sound so much more doable, doesn’t it? That doesn’t mean we don’t sometimes find reasons to jump for joy. When those precious moments come along, we should embrace them whole-heartedly and leap away.
Is being joyful just a New Testament concept? Definitely not. Let’s look at something Solomon said in Ecclesiastes 3: 11-13: "He has made everything beautiful in its time. Also, he has put eternity into man's heart, yet so that he cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end. I perceived that there is nothing better for them than to be joyful and to do good as long as they live, also that everyone should eat and drink and take pleasure in all his toil-- this is God's gift to man."
God wants us to enjoy what he has given to us in life—that is His gift to us. If we are not happy with what he has given us, in essence, we are being ungrateful and are throwing God’s gifts back in His face. Notice that Solomon said that God has made everything beautiful in its time. Even something in your life that may appear really ugly right now may blossom into something beautiful later. It’s the same way with trials. On the other side of them, we may find that we have blossomed into a stronger and more compassionate person as a result of what God brought us through.
To me, David was the ultimate happy person. I can’t wait to meet David some day, God willing. I can relate to David so well, primarily because of his love of the outdoors and music like myself. One thing that I noticed about David’s Psalms is that he didn’t just mention that he is happy but he also realized that we can make God happy through our actions. Look at Psalm 28:6: “Blessed be the LORD! For he has heard the voice of my pleas for mercy. The LORD is my strength and my shield; in him my heart trusts, and I am helped; my heart exults, and with my song I give thanks to him.” David prayed to the LORD, which made the LORD blessed, or happy. Because of David’s thankfulness for being forgiven, he sang his heart out to the LORD, praising His name. It can be an endless circle for us too. If we are happy and thankful for what God has given to us, we will make Him happy. If that thought doesn’t inspire us to want to be happy, I don’t know what else will.
We are so incredibly blessed to have a Heavenly Father in our lives who considers each one of us to be His precious and beautiful child. He loves us with a type of love that is absolutely unfathomable to us. I’m sure it pains Him when he sees us go through trials in our lives, but He knows what’s best for us. On the other side of those trials, the sun will shine upon us once again. Let’s bask in the sunshine of our Father’s love. One of my favorite mottos in life is “Live, Laugh, and Love.” Being able to live, to laugh and to love are wonderful gifts from our Father, the One who also gave us the blessing of joy and peace through His beloved Son, our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Let’s never forget how truly blessed we are!