How Does Understanding God’s Happiness Change Lives?

A teenage boy came to me with questions about his faith. He’d attended church all his life but now had some doubts. I assured him that even the writers of the Bible sometimes struggled. He wasn’t questioning any basic Christian beliefs, and he didn’t need six evidences for Christ’s resurrection, so I talked to him about holiness and happiness.

“What does God’s holiness mean?” I asked.

His clear, biblical answer: “He’s perfect, without sin.”

“Absolutely true. Does thinking about God’s holiness draw you to him?”

He responded sadly, “No.”

I asked him whether he wanted to be holy 100% of the time. “No.”

“Me neither. I should, but I don’t.”

Then I surprised him, asking, “What do you want 100% of the time?” He didn’t know.

“Have you ever once thought, I don’t want to be happy?” “No.”

“Isn’t that what you really want—happiness?”

He nodded, his expression saying, “Guilty as charged.” Friendships, video games, sports, academics—every activity, every relationship he chose—played into his desire to be happy. But I could see he felt that this longing was unspiritual, displeasing to God.

I told him the word translated “blessed” in 1 Timothy 1:11 and 6:15 speaks of God being happy. I asked him to memorize these verses, replacing “blessed God” with “happy God.”

Then I asked him to list whatever pointed him to God’s happiness—backpacking, music, playing hockey, favorite foods. I said, “God could have made food without flavor, but he’s a happy God, so he created a world full of happiness. That means you can thank him for macaroni and cheese, for music, for Ping-Pong, and above all, for dying on the cross so you can know him and be forever happy.”

This boy had seen Christianity as a list of things he should do that wouldn’t make him happy and a list of things he shouldn’t do that would have made him happy.

Since we’ll inevitably seek what we believe will bring us happiness, what subject is more important than the true source of happiness? Just as we’ll live a wealth-centered life if we believe wealth brings happiness, so we’ll live a God-centered life if we believe God will bring us happiness. No one shops for milk at an auto parts store or seeks happiness from a cranky God.

As much as I believe in the holiness of God, I also believe in emphasizing God’s happiness as a legitimate and effective way to share the gospel with unbelievers or to help Christians regain a foothold in their faith.

God feels love, compassion, anger and happiness. He’s never overwhelmed by unsettling emotions, nor is he subject to distresses imposed by others. But he does feel his children’s suffering deeply.

If your human father said he loved you but never showed it through his emotions, would you believe him? If we think God has no emotions, it’s impossible to believe he delights in us or to feel his love. That’s one reason believing in God’s happiness can be a breakthrough for people in their love for him.

We’re told of God, in relationship with His people, “In all their affliction he was afflicted. … In his love and in his pity he redeemed them; he lifted them up and carried them all the days of old” (Isa. 63:9). What a moving portrayal of the tenderness of his affection for us and devotion to us!

But if God is so moved by our sorrows, how can he still be happy while we’re suffering?

God himself models his inspired command to rejoice always. He sympathizes with all his suffering children, but he rejoices in purchasing our redemption and making us more like Jesus. He joyfully prepares a place for us, and he has eternally happy plans. He has the power to accomplish everything, as well as the sure knowledge that it will happen.

While I’m grateful that God cares deeply for me, I’m also grateful that when I’m miserable, it doesn’t mean God is. As any good father will be moved by his daughter’s pain when her boyfriend breaks up with her, God can feel our pain while retaining his own happiness. God the Father has an infinitely larger picture of eventual, eternal good that he will certainly accomplish. Nothing is outside his control. Therefore, nothing is a cause for worry. God does not fret.

Yes, our distress can involve feelings God doesn’t have, such as helplessness or uncertainty. But clearly God intends for us to see a similarity between our emotional distress and the affliction he feels on our behalf. If God experiences various non-sinful human emotions, as indicated by Scripture, it stands to reason that he feels happiness, too.

Loving Father, you are all-knowing, so nothing takes you by surprise. You are all-powerful, so there’s nothing you want to do but can’t. You are completely loving and good, so you can never and will never betray or abandon us. You are the source of all happiness, so you’re able to fulfill our deepest longings for joy and pleasure. Thank you for being both capable of and committed to bringing ultimate goodness to us, your children.

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This article originally appeared on EPM.org and is reposted here by permission.

Randy Alcorn
Randy Alcornhttp://EPM.org

Randy Alcorn is the author of over 60 books and the founder and director of Eternal Perspective Ministries.