I was wondering if you could explain what it means to experience “true joy and happiness” that is found in Christ … That biblical statement is pretty much hardwired into my system. I.E. lessons on the diff. between Happiness in God VS the world’s fake version of happiness. I don’t always have a clear understanding on what joy found in Christ means, esp. when I’m feeling unsatisfied with certain areas of my life. (edited for length)
And another anon asked:
I feel like a scribe…”let’s catch him in a scripture infraction” LOL. What is the biblical difference of ‘human pursuit of happiness’ and ‘joy of the Lord’?
Let’s be clear about one simple thing first: you are allowed to feel your feelings. One more time now: it’s okay to be a human being and feel your freaking feelings.
I am absolutely dead sick and tired of Christian blogger-world writing, “Don’t give that cute boy a second thought” or “How dare you cheer at a basketball game but can’t sing loud at church” or “You better have the same passion for God as you do your video games.” Okay, fine, we get it: we do not base our lives solely on things that can change.
But you know, if you or I ever win the lottery, I am NOT going to moderate my happiness for the sake of some half-baked theology that is never found in Scripture. You can feel that feels all the way. Rip your shirt off, pump your fist, and wave that lottery ticket in everyone’s face.
Let’s look at this biblically: please allow me some grace here as we get into some theology. The words “happy” or “happiness” show up in the Bible about twenty times, mostly in Proverbs and Ecclesiastes. It’s almost always bound with external circumstances. The words “joy” or “rejoice” show up about four-hundred times, and is not surprisingly bound up with God. You might conclude here that we should seek joy and avoid happiness. Except the Bible never ever says that.
1 Timothy 4:3-5 blows this “opposing theology” out of the water, where Paul says, “They [hypocrites] forbid people to marry and order them to abstain from certain foods, which God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and who know the truth. For everything God created is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving, because it is consecrated by the word of God and prayer.”
So it’s actually hypocrites who deny themselves the simple pleasures of life, and authentic Christians can receive good gifts from God (including changing circumstances) with a grateful heart.
The whole person is thankful for anything and everything, because it’s ALL from God. Anything extra beyond the sending of Jesus is extra bonus grace. Our ultimate joy comes from intimacy with Jesus, but life itself is also meant to be received with a thankful humility.
Yes, it’s critical to approach our feelings with wisdom, to recognize that they don’t always speak truth. But when you’re taught to be paranoid of all your feelings, you’ll find it impossible to come to God for wisdom about them.
The Pharisee will shame you for having “other passions” besides God, like that flutter in your heart when you’re attracted to someone. But God Himself created the whole spectrum of emotions, and He will redeem them and work through them and guide them. He’ll lead you into what is best. That could mean you reject that attraction and God is saying, “I have something better,” or you follow a little more to see if this is what God has in store.
My suspicion is that most people reject happiness because this makes them look deep, scholarly, biblical, and mature. But it is NOT humble to scorn happy moments, as if that makes you a holy dude.
When your kids graduate high school, when you beat that video game, when you’re just laughing in the theater with friends, when you play catch with your dog, when you clap at a pastor’s joke in the sermon (once a year), when you eat great food at your favorite restaurant — these are all occasions for extreme happiness. And Christians get an even deeper joy in their happiness, because above it all is the God who provides these memories.
When life gets upside-down and nearly impossible to face each day, then we still have a joy that anchors us in our temporary passage on earth. In the deepest pit, God is deeper still.
God gives us happiness, like cool water over bruised hands, and He is our joy, like an endless well who satisfies our every need. Let’s be thankful for both, and not create opposing theologies where there are none.