“God cares more about your holiness than your happiness.”
When I first heard that I thought to myself “Boom! Truth bomb to the face!” But, the more I thought about it I wondered is that really true?
What is holiness? Using the Oxford Dictionary one could say holiness is the state of being dedicated to God.
So then another way to say it would be God cares more about you being dedicated to Him than your happiness.
Well, what is happiness? Again using the Oxford Dictionary one could say happiness is the state of enjoying having our wishes, expectations, or needs fulfilled.
So then yet another way to say it would be God cares more about you being dedicated to Him than you enjoying your personal wishes, expectations, and needs being fulfilled. Does that still sound like something that is right? What if your personal wishes, expectations, and needs are to be dedicated to God?
Why did God create us? According to Isaiah 43:7 it was for His glory. The New City Catechism states “God created us male and female in his own image to know him, love him, live with him, and glorify him. And it is right that we who were created by God should live to his glory.”
The Westminster Shorter Catechism asks “What is the chief end of man?” the answer it gives is “to glorify God and enjoy him forever.” Well how does one glorify God? Again, the New City Catechism states “We glorify God by enjoying him, loving him, trusting him, and by obeying his will, commands, and law.”
The word enjoy seems to pop up across the board. So, if being happy is showing and feeling pleasure, and pleasure is a feeling of happy satisfaction and enjoyment, then can we be happy by getting pleasure from enjoying God which He has called us to do?
I don’t think holiness and happiness are two separate things. Rather, I think happiness is a byproduct of holiness. We have to reorient ourselves to what will actually make us happy. The world gives any number of answers for how to be happy. Acquire things, do things, make things. It’s always focused on the self. What do I want to do? What makes me happy? My first response to that even after becoming a Christian hasn’t always been enjoying, loving, trusting, and obeying God.
My answers would be a girlfriend, a job I didn’t hate, living in a house I found acceptable, driving a car I thought was cool, having enough money to just do what I wanted, when I wanted to. Me, me, me.
1 John 5: 3 says “For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome.” He wants us to get happiness from delighting in His law as it says in Psalm 119:70 and in Psalm 40:8 it says “I delight to do your will, O my God; your law is within my heart.”
Am I there yet? Not always. Some days, I even wonder if I have it set as one of my end goals. I still struggle with defiance. The only difference is, when I sin, I’ve noticed more and more that it doesn’t feel right. “The thrill is gone” as noted theologian B.B. King sang. I’m left searching for more and I realize I feel most at peace when I am abiding, trusting, and learning to find happiness in obeying.
Some might say Psalm 37:4 is a monkey wrench to this line of thought. It says, “Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart.” Sure, I could be way off base. I do know that the first part of that verse says to delight in the Lord. What if when we actually delight in the Lord we find the desires of our heart changing? What if instead of things it’s forgiveness, justification, community? As Tim Keller says, “God will either give us what we ask for in prayer or give us what we would have asked for if we knew everything he knows.”
Philippians 4:4 says Rejoice in the Lord always. I think it’s a different kind of happiness we have to work towards and an understanding that true, real happiness is only derived from knowing and worshiping the one true God.