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Friday, November 13, 2009

God wants you to be happy

Facebook has an application called "On this day, God wants you to know ...". The application generates randomized feel-good messages from God. You know, things like "On this day, God wants you to know ... that you are unique and precious." More verbage, to be sure, but those kinds of things.

The other day one of my friends got this one:
On this day, God wants you to know...
... that you deserve happiness just because. There is nothing you need to do to deserve happiness. There are no 'minimal requirements' for you to fulfill before you can claim happiness. You deserve happiness simply by virtue of having been born. That's it. Nothing more is required. Be happy.
Mmm, yeah, that just feels so nice. Of course, it would be best, if you want to be most comfortable, not to ask questions like "Is it true?"

You see, it begs the question. Is it actually true that simply because you were born you deserve happiness? More so, is that God's big desire for you -- happiness? Are humans, as a right of birth, deserving of happiness? We'd like to think so, to be sure. We'd like to think that humans deserve happiness. McDonalds would like us to think so, wouldn't they? "You deserve a break today," they tell us. We're pretty sure that the pursuit of happiness is one of those inalienable rights endowed by our Creator (even though that Creator has been asked to leave our government, our schools, our public places, etc.). It is in the Declaration of Independence, you know ... a valid source of theological truth, I'm sure. God loves you and wants most of all for you to be happy. Sure it's true!

If you haven't figured it out by now, I'm skeptical. I don't actually think that God's highest priority is my happiness. Nor do I believe that just because I was born I deserve happiness. Why? Well, to me it's neither biblical nor rational. That is, it's not what the Bible seems to say and it doesn't make much sense to me.

Consider, for instance, the wrath of God. It's not a small subject in the Bible. So prevalent in the Old Testament was it that some considered the God of the Old Testament to be a different God than in the New Testament. Still, it doesn't take a lot of reading in the New Testament to find out that wrath is still there. There are warnings and curses and danger for all of us, but especially for the unbeliever. There is the promise of "scourging" from God to His own children. However you interpret "scourging", it cannot be read as "happiness". Indeed, it says, "For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant." And Paul tells us "It has been granted to you that for the sake of Christ you should not only believe in him but also suffer for His sake." Yippee! Suffering for Christ! Let's do the "happy dance"! No, that's not right.

Am I suggesting that God is a mean 'ol fellow, a cosmic killjoy, some divine curmudgeon who only wants to torment us? Not at all! The rest of the verse I mentioned about the unpleasantness of discipline ends this way: "... But later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it." We have a promise that God works all things together for good to those who love God. We know that Christ's payment on our behalf has taken away God's wrath toward us. So what am I suggesting? I'm suggesting that God is much more mature than your average 2-year-old. All youngster knows is "Make me feel good now." His parents, on the other hand, know better. There are times that little Johnny needs to be made uncomfortable, like when he needs vaccinations or when he needs discipline. Why do his parents do that, knowing that little Johnny will not be happy? They do it because they are most concerned not with his immediate comfort, but with his best interests. And that is God's concern. First, God is concerned about His own best interests. He needs to be ... He's God. Then He's concerned with the best interests of His children. Now, remember, there is a biblical definition for "His children", and it's not "all human beings". "To all who did receive Him, who believed in His name, to them He gave the right to become children of God." It makes sense in human terms that a loving parent would be most interested in the best interests of a child. It only makes sense that a loving God would be primarily concerned with not so much the happiness, the best interests of His own children.

Does God want you to know, then, that you deserve happiness? I don't think so. Does simply being human mean that you deserve happiness? Certainly not! Remember, there are "vessels of wrath prepared for destruction". They shouldn't be counting on God's generosity. There are what Paul refers to as vessels "for dishonorable use". There are those who are "children of your father, the devil". Being human does not confer, then, the divine right to happiness. Don't let someone try to convince you otherwise. If you're a child of the King, He has much better things in mind for you than paltry happiness. Count on it.


Dan said...

This touches on man centered theology. Man is the measure and end of all things so of course it would stand to reason that he should be happy.

And as with all man centered theology, God ends up being this weakling inept god who can't even manage to get us that raise we wanted, or keep us from getting pregnant while having that affair, or from contracting aides, etc., all of which are agents of unhappyness. But never fear, man has trumped even God, he has elected Obama!

Stan said...


Marshall Art said...

I don't think God's concerned with making us happy because he already endowed each of us with the capacity to be happy any time we want. Happiness is a choice. It's not something delivered from outside our selves. Does God want us to be happy? I don't know about that, but I would suspect (just my own opinion) that He delights when we are.

Stan said...

I would think that it would be important to God to know what we're happy about before He delights in it. "I'm so happy I got away with that sin!" would probably not cause Him delight. ;)

Marshall Art said...

No doubt. But to be happy for getting away with having done something sinful is not the kind of happiness I had in mind. That would be a happiness that is caused by something external. I meant happiness that comes from within, through the mere force of personal choice. I'm happy because I choose to be, even when life is hard. I can simply BE happy, or I can choose to remind myself of the good things in my life and kind of fall back on those. My wife and kids, for example are reasons to be cheerful. But my bottom line is that I need no reason to be happy. Lacking any reason at all, I can still choose to be happy.

However, knowing that God exists, loves me and has provided the means by which I can be saved means there's always a reason to be happy.