Does God Want You to be Happy?
It could be said by a mother to her son.
A son to his father.
A father to his daughter.
A daughter to her mother.
Or, of course, everyone’s favorite: a lover to their lover.
As the music swells with strings that resonate with our own soul’s longing for the perfect resolution, the camera zooms in, and the words flow like cool water to a thirsty soul:
“I just want you to be happy!”
Not surprisingly, it’s a core motivation for pursuing romantic relationships. Or even dating at all. And in the end, the right marriage to the right person is supposed to lead to a conclusion which could only be described as “happily ever after.”
Heck! The pursuit of happiness is even enshrined in the US Declaration of Independence as an unalienable right!
But search the scriptures and you will discover a God who has higher aspirations for His children.
For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts. – Is 55:8-9 (ESV)
To be sure, God longs for us to be joyful. Indeed, He commands it.
Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. – Phil 4:4 (ESV)
In fact, the word “joy” appears in over 200 verses in the English Standard Version (ESV) of the Bible.
However, as you might have heard, the idea of joy is quite different from that of happiness, which, by the way, only appears twice in the ESV.
As our culture has devolved (some believe it has progressed) happiness is now used to justify almost any act of self-actualization, declaration of independence, or “difficult” choice, including:
- Following your heart into a relationship, regardless of how ill-advised it may be, or even unreasonable
- Following your heart out of a relationship, regardless of the costs
- Making any commitment, no matter how impulsive
- Breaking any commitment, no matter how sacred
- Justifying habits you enjoy, despite how sinful, selfish, addictive, unhealthy or destructive they may be
- Choosing to reorient your very identity, even if it defies all rational understanding
- Refusing to change for the good of anyone else, but yourself, especially if it would require >gulp< sacrifice
But our God, who clearly longs for our joy, like any good Father would, talks of His desire for us to change, to sacrifice, to grow, and to risk, not for the sake of our own happiness, but for the sake of His kingdom.
And in the end, that meek and mild Jesus, who loved to hang with the sinners and stick it to religious types announced…
If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel’s will save it. – Mark 8:34b-35 (ESV)
Those words certainly don’t flow like cool water, but remember who it is that said them. A God who’s love cannot be denied, because He humbled Himself to become one of us, that He might die for all of us. That means we can trust God’s love, even when it feels more like a cross, than cool water.
Jesus longs for us to be more than happy, and so with all the love which drove Him to deliver up His own life for ours, He whispers:
“I just want you to be holy.”
And if you can reorient your mind around that reality, it holds the power to dramatically change your reality.
Specifically, when it comes to dating, it should impact:
- When you begin dating
- How you date; even how you flirt
- Who you date
- Who you wouldn’t even think of dating
- How you think about dating
- How much you’ll trust God to direct your dating life
- What kind of risks you will take in dating
- What boundaries you simply won’t cross
- Where you simply won’t go on a date
- What you expect to get out of each date
- Where you want your dating life to take you in the end
Bottom line, if you believe God just wants you to be happy, you will date for yourself. And then you will justify your self-serving and short-sighted choices with the self-centered fantasy that God wouldn’t have it any other way.
Then, having become the driving force of your dating pursuits, this perspective will eventually become your motivation to pursue marriage.
To be certain, many marry believing it will ensure their happiness. Many.
But that is something marriage vows cannot vow.
And so as I close, I appeal to you. I even get down on my knees and beg you! (I literally just did that as I typed those last words. And I’m in a coffee shop right now.)
Learn to die to yourself now, for the love of the God who just wants you to be holy.
Want further encouragement and direction in doing just that? Check out our discipleship series, Beyond Sex & Salvation (see below). The first of three critical life lessons we teach in that series is “learning contentment.” You can check out excerpts of that book at this link.