Maybe God Wants Us to Be Happy After All

Christians should be the happiest people of all, not because we have to trick ourselves into being happy for the day but because we are objectively happy every day. God's grace in Jesus Christ, who is the greatest gift ever given, yields gratitude. 

Unfortunately, though, there are (quite a few) Christians who seem to be very unhappy, angry, and bitter. Instead of having charitable conversations with others online, many Christian choose to fight with other Christians. Others will poke fun at non-Christians for their unbelief. It’s difficult to find Christians discussing a topic on Facebook or Twitter in a civil and respectful manner. 

This is to our shame, and I am sorry for my brothers and sisters who act this way regularly. I'm also sorry for all of the times that I have acted this way. This is not how we should act, but often we do act this way.

This is because, although we have heard the best news anyone could possibly hear, and it is the most powerful news to fuel genuine love toward others, we are still sinful.

The reformer, Martin Luther, described this inconsistency in Christians as stemming from the fact that we are at the same time justified and sinful.

Before God, we are worthy and justified, and yet before ourselves and our neighbors, we act in ways that are unworthy and condemnable. We are externally righteous and sinless, and yet internally we are unrighteous and sinful. 

As Christians, we have been given a Maserati, but often we will drive it into a ditch.

(Taylor Swift commercial break.)

 
 

We are terribly inconsistent, and those of us who are more consistent tend to fall off the other side of the horse by being proud—we undermine the great gift yet again by driving our Maserati through the homeless part of downtown.

“Check out my ride!" "Look at me!" "Praise me you peasants! I’m so great!”

(Normally, it’s less overt than this but that doesn’t change what’s going on inside of the heart.)

This sort of hypocrisy gets us when foolish living does not, and we are back to square one all over again: justified before God, and yet still struggling with sins that make us look like idiots before the world.

Sometimes, it’s the same sin that our unbelieving neighbors deal with. Other times, it’s worse than unbelieving neighbors. (I’m not making this up, the apostle Paul wrote a letter to the church in Corinth on this very thing. Christians were living lives that non-Christian people in Corinth thought was shameful and disgusting.) 

The gospel and genuine gratitude is the only way out of this predicament. The gospel reminds us that we have nothing to hold over anybody else, everything is grace. And since everything is grace—the Maserati isn’t ours—we tend to take better care of those things, people, and callings that God has entrusted us with. The gospel is the only way forward.

I suppose an added benefit to hearing and believing the gospel is that, since we have objective peace with God, we can also experience the subjective happiness that comes with a thankful heart. As the Times says, living in such a way will raise our happiness and overall satisfaction with life.

Or as the Westminster Shorter Catechism puts it:

Q. 1. What is the chief end of man?
A. Man's chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever.

Sounds good. Let the good vibes and #allthefeels come rolling on. Hard not to enjoy life when you've already been approved by the only opinion that actually counts, am I right?

So if you’re a Christian, you have every reason in this world and the next to be happy—the Giver and gift of grace are yours already.

Don't worry—God has rendered his favorable verdict toward you. In Christ, that's a verdict that should make you feel pretty happy.

Receive this gift. All happiness is yours.
 


And a little C.S. Lewis goodie on happiness, for the road...

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Nicholas Davis

Rev. Nicholas Davis is a minister in the Presbyterian Church in America.

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