Should I expect that God will make me happy?

Questions about God, the Bible and the Christian culture

Question: Can God make me happy?

Answer: Yes! But let me qualify.

The thing that throws most people off concerning happiness (and particularly us Americans) is that we confuse “birthday-party happiness” with mature happiness, which the Bible describes as joy. Joy is the biblical expectation; birthday-party happiness is merely one of the possible life experiences that is available to all people — whether or not they subscribe to God. The difference is apparent. Joy is not dependent on external conditions, whereas birthday-party happiness is… and God has no interest in keeping any of his children in continual emotional glee.

In another article, I addressed the question of whether or not Jesus laughed. The Bible does not say so specifically, but it does tell us that he experienced the full range of human emotions. Therefore, his laughing is scripturally plausible — (so I say he did — I just can’t prove it with a citation). But Jesus’ example is our real answer. We too will experience the full range of human experience under God’s aegis, and this includes happiness… and unhappiness. Sorrow is no sin. So, if the question is, “Would God give me the birthday-party type of happiness continually?” The answer would be, no. That would be like having ice cream for every meal… good for a while… but bad in the whole.

Marketing tells America that you can have birthday-party happiness continually — like that is our reasonable expectation… and there is something wrong with us if we do not experience this, so spend more money! That is hooey! Our emotional diet should be balanced just like our food diets. We should laugh in joy, cry in sorrow, rage at injustice, etc., all in their season (Ecclesiastes 3). So, the Bible does not promise birthday-party happiness. It promises joy — and there is a difference. Mature happiness is the real stuff, and we find that at the "happy" end of the joy spectrum.

It is critical to understand that Christians maintain joy while under trial. When under trial, nothing internal changes concerning your faith or in your service to the Lord. The trials are outside stuff. Now, no normal person would be “happy” with his life falling down around him…but joy persists for the Christian. Joy is that mature type of happiness that is manifested in peace — and peace is only an idea unless one is under trial.

So, can God make you happy? Yes and no. God is in control of your circumstances… but you are in control of your responses. Mature Christians maintain the awareness of joy while going through trials, while immature persons expect birthday-party happiness continually; God won’t give that to any of us.

As for Scripture, the reasonable expectation of a mature Christian is the “fruit of the Spirit.” And please note that, although we may develop facilities based on these fruits, the fruit itself is a gift of the tree (the Spirit). We create none of them.

Note also the contrast that Paul sets up between two types of people. People who have no desire to live their lives for God should have no expectations of receiving the benefits of his kingdom at his hand. (They will, however, continue to receive the advantages that are common to humankind, like rainfall, air to breathe, brains to think, etc.).

“But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law. Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit.” (Galatians 5:16–25, ESV)

We humans are designed to live in communion with God. That is the context for legitimate happiness.

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