Does God Want You to Be Happy?

(Reading time: four minutes.)

In his classic story, The Last Battle, C. S. Lewis has the great Lion, the Christ figure Aslan, say to the story’s protagonists, “You do not yet look so happy as I mean you to be.” Perhaps Lewis put these words in the Christ figure’s mouth because he realized that this was the kind of thing the true Christ was saying to him.

The idea that Christ wants his people to be happy is not one that most of us, who have swallowed a cultural caricature of religious people, have spent time exploring. That caricature, found in books and film, represents Christians as dreary, dour, and frequently sour folk who care nothing for earth, but only for heaven. They regard every earthly pleasure as a threat, which is their sacred duty to avoid. They also feel an obligation to deny these ruinous pleasures to others.

It is, unfortunately, not just irreligious people who have bought into this way of thinking; many Christians have too. They have somehow come to believe that the faithful can’t have fun. To enjoy earth, they think, is to betray – or, perhaps, to risk – heaven.

But is this a caricature? Doesn’t the Bible say a lot about keeping commands, fleeing youthful lusts, and walking in the narrow way? Isn’t the Bible filled with commands that Christians are required to obey? Wouldn’t constant attention to those commands make anyone dreary, dour, and sour?

I think this way of framing it is misleading. Yes, there are many rules or commands in the Bible – more in the New Testament than in the Old, which many people find surprising. But keeping these commands was never an end in itself, nor was keeping them a requirement for entrance into the afterlife.

Think of it this way. There are a lot of rules in music. For example, music follows a rhythmic pattern at a particular tempo. It requires pitch, which is a result of sound waves vibrating at particular frequencies. Musicians make use of particular pitch patterns based on established relationships between these frequencies. They build harmonies on recognized combinations of them.

Anyone may choose to ignore these rules and do music their own way. That, of course, is up to them, but they may not be able to play well – or play at all – with other musicians. Moreover, it is quite likely that neither they nor anyone else will find their music satisfying. The “rules” of music are not there to frustrate musicians and get in their way. They simply express the way music actually works.

Likewise, following the Bible’s rules helps us “play well” with God and others in a way that is rich and satisfying and wonderfully creative. God did not give us rules to frustrate us, but to enable us to flourish.

If we only keep the Bible’s rules as a means of reaching a desired end – entrance into heaven – they will feel artificial and imposed. But once we realize that these rules express the way life works best, the door opens for us to see that God wants people to be joyful. The mistake we repeatedly make is trying to create feelings of joy rather than construct a state of being in which joy is a natural part.

Photo by Bekka Mongeau on Pexels.com

God, the Bible makes clear, experiences joy himself. He is, in fact, the most joyful being in the universe. He delights in his creation, rejoices over his beloved people, and takes pleasure in showering blessings on them.

It is because God is the universe’s most joyful being that the hero Nehemiah could tell people: “the joy of the Lord is your strength.” It is also why the biblical songwriter could say to God, “…in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.”

C. S. Lewis was right: “…it is just no good asking God to make us happy in our own way without bothering about religion. God cannot give us happiness and peace apart from himself, because it is not there. There is no such thing.”

About salooper57

Husband, father, pastor, follower. I am a disciple of Jesus, learning how to do life from him. I read, write, walk, play a little guitar, enjoy my family.
This entry was posted in Christianity, Spiritual life, Theology and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.