Does God Want Us to Be Happy?

Ohio Senator Rob PortmanOhio Senator Rob Portman wrote an editorial that was published on March 15, 2013 in which he announced his change of position on same-sex marriage. Previously, he had been against such “marriages.” Now he believes “the government shouldn’t deny [same-sex couples] the opportunity to get married.”

In the editorial, he explained the reason for his change of heart. Two years ago, one of his sons informed him that he was a homosexual. After learning this, Senator Portman began re-evaluating his stance on same-sex marriage and eventually changed his mind on the issue. He said he is “a dad who wants all three of his kids to lead happy, meaningful lives with the people they love.” Couple that with his statement about “the Bible’s overarching themes of love and compassion and my belief that we are all children of God,” and we see one who has tried to find a way to harmonize – in his own mind – faith in God and man’s desire to be happy.

His statement about wanting all of his children to be happy seems reasonable to a lot of people, even among those who are religious. Many people believe that God would want them to be happy. Therefore, if something like homosexuality makes one happy, they conclude that God must accept it and that we should accept it, too.

So we should ask the question: Does God want us to be happy? In answering this question, we must be sure that our conclusion comes from the Bible and not our emotions.

God Does Want Us to Be Happy

The psalms repeatedly call for God’s people to rejoice and be glad.

Be glad in the Lord and rejoice, you righteous ones; and shout for joy, all you who are upright in heart” (Psalm 32:11).

Let all who seek You rejoice and be glad in You; let those who love Your salvation say continually, ‘The Lord be magnified!’” (Psalm 40:16).

This is the day which the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it” (Psalm 118:24).

This rejoicing and gladness are clearly for those who are righteous and upright and who seek after the Lord. In the New Testament, there are multiple instances in which Paul called upon Christians to rejoice.

Finally, my brethren, rejoice in the Lord. To write the same things again is no trouble to me, and it is a safeguard for you” (Philippians 3:1).

Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice!” (Philippians 4:4).

Rejoice always” (1 Thessalonians 5:16).

We also read that the words of Christ and the preaching of the gospel ought to produce joy in those who hear.

These things I have spoken to you so that My joy may be in you, and that your joy may be made full” (John 15:11).

Though I have many things to write to you, I do not want to do so with paper and ink; but I hope to come to you and speak face to face, so that your joy may be made full” (2 John 12).

Not that we lord it over your faith, but are workers with you for your joy; for in your faith you are standing firm” (2 Corinthians 1:24).

Other passages teach us that joyfulness and gladness ought to be common among God’s people. One of the fruits of the Spirit is joy (Galatians 5:22). Joy is one of the marks of the kingdom of God (Romans 14:17). The early church gathered together “with gladness” (Acts 2:46). God’s blessings should produce gladness in our hearts (Acts 14:17).

All of these passages, along with others that could have been cited, make it clear that God does want us to be happy. But before we jump to the conclusion that God accepts us doing just anything that makes us happy, there is another important point to consider.

God Wants Us to Avoid Sin

People often say, “I just think God would want me to be happy,” as a way to excuse sin. Though there may be passages of Scripture that clearly condemn a certain behavior, many will ignore the Scripture and justify the sin in the name of happiness.

It is becoming more and more common to hear people defend homosexuality and same-sex marriage on this basis. After all, this practice makes these couples happy. Therefore, they conclude that God must accept it. Yet homosexuality is clearly condemned by God. In writing to the saints in Rome, Paul called homosexuality “unnatural,” “indecent,” and said that those who practice it are in “error” (Romans 1:26-27). To Corinth, he said that “homosexuals” are among the “unrighteous [who] will not inherit the kingdom of God” (1 Corinthians 6:9). He told Timothy that “homosexuals” are “lawless and rebellious…ungodly and sinners,” and that their sexual behavior was “contrary to sound teaching” (1 Timothy 1:9-10).

It does not matter if a practice like homosexuality makes one happy. It is clearly defined in God’s word as sin. We have considered homosexuality here because of the recent attention it has received in the media, but it is important to point out that this principle is not limited to homosexuality. Any sin, no matter what it might be, is wrong and should not be tolerated simply because it makes someone happy.

It may be helpful to ask the question: Where do we draw the line? This mentality of justifying sin in the name of happiness has always existed. Homosexuality is simply a current variation of it. If our society is pressured to accept homosexuality and same-sex marriage because it makes these couples happy, what else will we be pressured to accept for the sake of “happiness”? Polygamy? Brace yourselves, because after same-sex marriage, polygamy is the next logical step. What about pedophilia? A recent news story reported that a South African cardinal believes that pedophilia is not a crime. Also, Iranian lawmakers are seeking to lower the legal age of marriage for girls to nine years old. According to that same article, in 2010 there were 42,000 marriages in Iran involving girls between the ages of 10 and 14. Do we really think happiness alone should be the standard of what is right and what should be accepted? Morally and logically, the answer to that question should be no!

While many in the world are trying to justify sin in the name of happiness, God calls us to repentance. Paul told the men of Athens, “Therefore having overlooked the times of ignorance, God is now declaring to men that all people everywhere should repent” (Acts 17:30). Peter said, “The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9). God expects us to work to overcome sin (1 John 2:1). We are not to be content in it.

The Passing Pleasures of Sin

It is important to note that the Scriptures do not deny that there is a degree of pleasure that can be obtained from sin. However, any pleasure that may be found in sin is only temporary. Notice the example of Moses:

By faith Moses, when he had grown up, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter, choosing rather to endure ill-treatment with the people of God than to enjoy the passing pleasures of sin, considering the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures of Egypt; for he was looking to the reward” (Hebrews 11:24-26).

Moses understood what we need to understand. The happiness and reward that are found in following God are far greater than the temporary pleasures of sin.

We should also remember that just because sin may produce some momentary pleasure, that does not mean that it offers real happiness. We know that sin will ultimately be punished. Paul wrote, “For the wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23). He was referring to the eternal punishment and separation from God that comes after this life for those who do not follow the Lord. But besides this, there are also negative consequences for sin in this life. Solomon warned, “The way of the treacherous [transgressors, KJV] is hard” (Proverbs 13:15).

True Happiness

We noticed at the beginning of this study that God does want us to be happy. Yet He does not want us to continue in sin. Therefore, we know that true happiness is not going to be found in sin but in God. The New Testament contains several descriptions of those who are blessed (happy). Notice just a few examples:

  • Those who “hunger and thirst for righteousness” are blessed (Matthew 5:6).
  • Those who are “persecuted for the sake of righteousness” are blessed (Matthew 5:10; cf. 1 Peter 3:14).
  • Those who “have been forgiven” are blessed (Romans 4:7).
  • Those who “die in the Lord” are blessed (Revelation 14:13).
  • Those who “wash their robes” or “do his commandments” (KJV) are blessed (Revelation 22:14).

Why is it that even in the face of persecution and death, those who are righteous and do the Lord’s commandments are happy or blessed? It is because their “reward in heaven is great” (Matthew 5:12). They have “the right to the tree of life, and may enter by the gates into the city” (Revelation 22:14).

Nothing in this world can compare with the reward offered by God. Therefore, let us not attempt to justify sin in the name of some temporary pleasure. Instead, let us put away sin from our lives and serve the Lord so that after this life we might enjoy true and eternal happiness in the presence of God.

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  1. The idea that “God wants them to be happy” to many people, means that gives them license to do as they please. People can be so foolish when it suits their goals. A co-worker of mine told me his wife was divorcing him because she wasn’t happy and didn’t love him anymore and that God wanted her to be happy. Does that sound like a reasonable position to take? So anything that makes one happy will bring God’s favor? Those who enjoy pornography can use the same argument. These people are so ignorant that it is hard to discuss a rational thought with them. Anything that brings one pleasure, to the mind of these people, must equate happiness. This is so totally foolish and yet that is the mindset of folks who want what they want regardless of what is RIGHT! A drug addict wants what gives him pleasure (makes him happy) so it must be “right” for him to use drugs. Do really honest people reason this way?