If you were to venture out into the streets of any major city and survey fifty people about what they think God’s greatest desire for them is, I guarantee you the top response would be: “He wants me to be happy.”
Many spiritual Americans gauge God’s approval and blessing of their lives by their level of happiness. Because they believe their delight is God’s highest desire, they view anything that makes them happy as a gift from his hand. I know men who have left their wives for other lovers and believe God’s okay with their decision because they’re happy. I know men and women in gay relationships who think God approves of their romantic choices because they’re happy. I know ladies who habitually divorce and remarry and believe every new relationship is a gift from God because they’re happy (at least temporarily!).
When I look into my Bible, I can’t help but believe God wants us to be happy. Contrary to how some religions and even sects of Christianity portray him, the true God is a kind and loving Master who doesn’t want us living a doom-and-gloom kind of life. The Scriptures are filled to the rim with exhortations to be joyful, content, and at peace.
However, the piece of the puzzle that many people are missing is that God wants to be the main ingredient of our happiness. Actually, he demands it—he demands to be the ultimate treasure of our hearts. Does this mean he doesn’t want us to enjoy other things? Heck no. Relationships, food, sex, alcohol, and other God-given gifts we find in this scarred yet beautiful world are for our enjoyment. He didn’t put these things within our reach just to slap our hands every time we grab hold of them. He wants us to delight in them. But he wants our delight in these things to be subservient to our delight in him. He wants the way we enjoy the gifts of this world to be directed and guided by an ultimate joy in him.
The way we deal with relationships, food, sex, alcohol, and every other thing under the sun is very indicative of where our hearts are with God. I know this may sound harsh, and I don’t say it for that purpose, but if we are joyfully immersed in what the Bible defines as sin—adultery, drunkenness, fornication, homosexuality—and don’t feel convicted at all, our hearts are probably not right with the Lord. We may very well be happy, but this does not mean he is happy with us.
A deep and abiding gladness in sin is not a sign of God’s blessing, but actually a sign of his judgment. One of the scariest things God can do—and he does do it— is give us over to our broken desires and allow us to revel in iniquity without remorse (Romans 1:24,26,29). Happiness in sin is a horrifying reality indicating that God, in his wrath, is letting us march freely into the fiery furnace of eternal damnation. Being content in blatant and continued rebellion against God’s revealed will should terrify the living mess out of us.
If, while reading this blog today, you have realized that you’ve been living comfortably in the happiness of your sins and have falsely assumed your joy was a sign of God’s blessing, there is great forgiveness and hope available to you! You’re not too far-gone or in too deep. There is pardoning and transforming grace for you. The conviction you feel—even if it’s slight—is a gift from God meant to lead you out of idolatry and into this grace.
Biblical Christianity is not just some religion consisting of exterior traditions and sacraments; it is an experiential, progressive rewiring of our desires. When we look to Jesus, believe his words, and entrust ourselves to him, God forgives us of all our sins and the Holy Spirit enters into the mess of our hearts to begin setting things straight. Though we won’t experience total freedom from the presence of sin until Christ returns, those who place their faith in him will experience real and continual change in this life. Day by day, month by month, year by year, and decade by decade, our hearts will find more and more happiness in God. We will progressively turn from our sins and increase, even if super slowly, in self-control. We will grow to enjoy God’s gifts in the way he deems appropriate, rather than idolizing them.
If your heart is out of whack today—whether you’re a lost person or a struggling believer—bring it on over to Jesus. He has both the power and desire to make God your ultimate delight.