What If God Doesn’t Want You To Be Happy?
What if God doesn’t want you to be happy? Wait, what? No seriously, what if God’s goal in your life isn’t your happiness? What if God is after something deeper and more meaningful?
Our culture is obsessed with happiness. Think about advertising slogans. “Have it your way,” “Open Happiness,” “The Happiest Place on Earth,” and of course, the McDonald’s “Happy Meal” (which often ends in bitterness when my kids don’t get the toy they want).
Most people’s goal in life is to be happy. We date and eventually marry people because they make us happy. We pursue sports, vacations, relationships, and vocations that make us happy. We buy things because they make us feel good. And yet, when we look around, most people aren’t actually happy.
For as hard as we try, it isn’t working.
Happiness is a slippery thing. It’s elusive and shifty. It constantly moves and morphs. A person, thing, or job that used to make us happy doesn’t anymore. And when we don’t feel happy we react and chase after something or someone we believe will make us happy. We leave the relationship or quit the job. Very few of us are willing to stay in a situation where we don’t experience the emotions associated with happiness. We run.
Interestingly, when you read the Scriptures, you discover that many of the characters find themselves in unhappy situations on a regular basis—Moses leading an ungrateful people, David hiding from Saul, Jesus alone in the wilderness for days and days without food or water, Paul in prison with a thorn in his side, and of course Job in absolute misery.
In many of these situations, the characters directly ask God for happier circumstances—David pours his heart out in the Psalms, Paul pleads with God three times over the thorn in his side, and most famously of all, Jesus prays, “Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me” (Luke 22.42). And yet, God usually chooses to leave these characters right where they are.
In the midst of this suffering and pain, David, Paul, and others wrote of joy. James, one of Jesus’ disciples, wrote:
“Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters,whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything” (James 1.2-4).
In last weekend’s sermon, Joe Stowell made a statement that has stuck with me. Speaking of the unhappy situations we often find ourselves in, he said, “Maybe God put you there, on purpose, for a purpose.”
There is purpose behind our unhappy circumstances. God is at work in you and in me. He wants something for you but it’s something deeper than happiness. It’s maturity. We can experience joy in unhappiness because we know God is present and at work in us, forging us into the people He wants us to become.
Aaron Buer | lifeline student ministries
Aaron serves as the senior high youth pastor at the Cascade Campus of Ada Bible Church. He also writes regularly about student ministries and life at aaronbuer.com.