This morning as I was at the gym, working out next to my husband, I listened to Randy Alcorn share his take on why God cares about your happiness. Because contrary to what you may have heard in religious circles, God does care if you are happy. I was (pleasantly) surprised by the interview, because let’s face it – happiness gets a bad rap with a lot of Christians. I can’t count the number of times I have heard someone insist that God cares about your holiness – not your happiness (because, you know, being holy and happy are supposedly completely exclusive). I’ve heard pious sounding people insist they prefer joy over happiness because “happiness is based on circumstances.” And my very mature response is usually, “Ewww.” Yes, the people who are down on happiness are kinda gross to me.
Randy’s message about God caring about our happiness resonated with me because he confirmed what I have always felt in my heart: that God is the creator of even the desire to feel happy. No, it is not a sign of being super spiritual to moan and groan your way through life. He made us for more than a life of gritting our teeth and trying harder to please Him. We were made for joy and delight. I love that even this – the drive to seek what makes us happy – was created by God.
Throughout my teenage years and early twenties I was continuously hearing pious sounding messages about how much God did not care about my happiness.While the view of God as a cosmic killjoy never truly resonated with my heart, it took a long time to get it out of my head. I frequently felt a sense of despair and defeat as I could never measure up to the standards and expectations I was told God required. Hearing about his high standards, my duty to his mandates, etc. nearly killed any true delight or love I had for God. I am so thankful to now be in a place in life where I can feel free to pursue what makes me happy – without guilt or fear of people judging me.
As much as I appreciate a good talk about how being spiritual and happy are not exclusive, the thing that touched my heart the most was Randy’s honesty about how he discovered happiness even in the midst of struggling with depression. As someone who has had frequent bouts of depression, I know how much that hope of happiness is often something you can cling to when life seems very dark. Offering simple suggestions for finding the happy in the midst of difficult circumstances truly meant a lot to me. He didn’t gloss over just how hard life can become. But he offered hope and practical suggestions.
So this morning, as I climbed stairs, I was reminded again of my word for the year – happy. God does indeed care about what brings each of us happiness. We look for the happy in life – not because we are commanded to, not because it is our duty, but simply because he put this desire in our hearts.