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Are you happy?
Do you think it’s wrong or selfish to want to be happy? Maybe even unbiblical?
The question may be one of the simplest yet most profound questions you could ever ask yourself.
There have a been a number of books recently that deal with the topic of happiness. Actually, it’s a topic that has been discussed since creation. And it’s one that is near and dear to my heart – after all, I named my blog The Healthy, Happy Woman.
So I was super excited when I came across two books discussing the topic of happiness – Happiness by Randy Alcorn and The Happiness Dare by Jennifer Dukes Lee. I was even more excited when both authors echoed the thoughts that had been on my heart for some time; that happiness is not only something that every person desires, but it is a gift that God wants to give His children.
I love how these two books compliment each other. The Happiness Dare is more of a personal account of the authors’ journey on delving deep into the subject of happiness and the discoveries she made along the way. Full of Scripture and poignant stories, it was a fast read that made me want to examine my life and make room for more happiness.
In his pithier treatise entitled Happiness, Alcorn examines the Scriptures, church history, and past and modern-day theologians to support his argument that we are called to be happy! (Yes, you read that right!)
So, here are just a few of the treasures I mined from these books. I hope they will encourage you to give these a read.
There is no difference between Joy and Happiness
I’ve come across a number of books and articles that say Joy is Biblical, while Happiness is worldly. Nothing could be further from the truth! They are synonyms and the Bible uses both terms interchangeably. Alcorn quotes John Piper on this matter who said, “If you have nice little categories for ‘joy is what Christians have’ and ‘happiness is what the world has,’ you can scrap those when you go to the Bible, because the Bible is indiscriminate in its uses of the language of happiness and joy and contentment and satisfaction.” Alcorn shows how this “splitting of hairs” has led to a lot of confusion and depression for Christians who deep down want to be happy but have been told that happiness is unbiblical. Alcorn states:
“For too long we’ve distanced the gospel from what Augstine, Aquinas, Pascal, the Puritans, Wesley, Spurgeon, and many other spiritual giants said God created us to desire – and what he desires for us – happiness. To declare joy sacred and happiness secular closes the door to dialogue with unbelievers. If someone is told that joy is the opposite of happiness, any thoughtful person would say, ‘In that case, I don’t want joy! If we say the gospel won’t bring happiness, any perceptive listener should respond, ‘Then how is it good news? We need to reverse the trend. Let’s redeem the word happiness in light of both Scripture and church history. Our message shouldn’t be “Don’t seek happiness,’ but ‘You’ll find in Jesus the happiness you’ve always longed for (44).'”
Yes, both joy and happiness are Biblical!
We can pray for Happiness
Have you ever asked God to make you happy? I was struck by this thought when reading The Happiness Dare. Dukes Lee writes, “But that day I realized there was something I desperately wanted but had never bothered to ask Jesus for directly: happiness (36).” I was floored by this statement, because it completely resonated with me. I had never thought to make happiness a matter of prayer! Alcorn echoes this sentiment when he quotes Hannah Whitall Smith’s advice to her son:
“Say night and morning, and whenever through the day you think of it, ‘Dear Lord make me happy in you,’ and leave it there. All the rest will come out right when once you are happy in Him (40-41).”
I love that prayer! It’s one I want to pray everyday.
Happiness is the Best Testimony
For the world, complaining, bitterness, and depression are the norm. But Christians should be different! And yet, sometimes it’s hard to tell the world apart from some Christians. I have often had to ask myself, “If the world had to guess by my attitude and my countenance whether or not I’m a Christian, what would they say?” Too often, I’m afraid they would have no idea. Alcorn and Dukes Lee point out the need for happy Christians. I love how Dukes Lee puts it, “I will choose happiness over grumpiness, because cranky Christians make horrible advertisements for Jesus.” Ouch. As Spurgeon put it, “My dear brothers and sisters, if anybody in the world ought to be happy, we are the people…How boundless our privileges! How brilliant our hopes!” (If you need a reminder on what those “boundless privileges” and “brilliant hopes” are, meditate on Ephesians 1). As Alcorn writes, “If the gospel doesn’t bring us true happiness, then what we believe is not the gospel.”
Dear friend, happiness is not only Biblical, it’s a beautiful picture of the Holy Spirit’s work in our lives. The world needs happy Christians. If you’re not happy, pray for it; search the Scriptures; make it a spiritual discipline (as Dukes Lee did). And give these books a read in the process!