God doesn't want you to be happy
Updated: Apr 19, 2020
Yes, really. I said it. Although to be clear, I didn't say, "God wants you to be unhappy." There's a difference. But your happiness is not on His todo list. There's this pervasive belief among Christians that God desires that His children be happy. Maybe this is a symptom of the "being a Christian will fix all your problems" evangelistic tactics. Maybe it's just projecting, since this is how we, as human parents, often feel about our children. But it's a lie!
If you're feeling mutinous at this point, please bear with me. All shall be clarified in time.
Let's look at the story of Job. First, let's establish that Job was a good person. Job 1:1 says, "There was a man in the land of Uz whose name was Job; and that man was blameless, upright, fearing God and turning away from evil." He's a true lover of God. Because he's good, God should want him to be happy right? Which is to say, God has no reason to smite him or make his life miserable. And yet . . . look at verses 8-12: "The Lord said to Satan, 'Have you considered My servant Job? For there is no one like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, fearing God and turning away from evil.' Then Satan answered the Lord, 'Does Job fear God for nothing? Have You not made a hedge about him and his house and all that he has, on every side? You have blessed the work of his hands, and his possessions have increased in the land. But put forth Your hand now and touch all that he has; he will surely curse You to Your face.' Then the Lord said to Satan, 'Behold, all that he has is in your power, only do not put forth your hand on him.'" If you continue reading chapter 1, you see that Satan doesn't pull punches. He destroys everything of worth in Job's life, including his children. And still Job worships God.
So in chapter 2, verses 3-6, Satan and God continue their discourse: "The Lord said to Satan, 'Have you considered My servant Job? For there is no one like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man fearing God and turning away from evil. And he still holds fast his integrity, although you incited Me against him to ruin him without cause.' Satan answered the Lord and said, 'Skin for skin! Yes, all that a man has he will give for his life. However, put forth Your hand now, and touch his bone and his flesh; he will curse You to Your face.' So the Lord said to Satan, 'Behold, he is in your power, only spare his life.'" So Satan wrecks Job's health with sore boils all over his body.
Let me ask you now: Was Job happy?
Clearly not! His friends come to visit him, and the end of chapter 2 tells us "they sat down on the ground with him for seven days and seven nights with no one speaking a word to him, for they saw that his pain was very great." Job was miserable! In the space of a few days, he lost everything, and God played a direct role in it. Satan didn't ask about Job; God brought it up! Would he do that if he wanted Job to be happy?
Here's the thing. God is much more invested in your growth than in your happiness. God doesn't want you to be happy; He wants you to be holy. And He will do whatever it takes for that to happen, even if it means temporary unhappiness. In James 1:2-4 we read, "Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing." Ah, there's that word "joy." Don't make the mistake of thinking that means the same thing as happiness. It doesn't. Happiness is temporary; it's dictated by your circumstances. If your circumstances are hard, you'll be unhappy. But joy, well, joy is eternal. It's deep inside you, and it's independent of your current circumstances. It comes from your eternal security in Christ Jesus. We take joy in this life, even in trials, because we know that God is good and that we have a place in heaven because of His sacrifice on the cross.
If you find yourself angry at God because life is difficult right now, examine that anger. Did you think that trusting God would mean wealth and happiness? Health and rest? II Timothy 3:12 says, "Indeed, all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted." That doesn't sound like a life of perpetual happiness! What motivation does God have to give you the temporary satisfactions of this life? When we are happy and things are good, we are less inclined to lean on God. But when things go wrong, we recognize that we need God! God knows that ultimate, eternal happiness (i.e. joy) can only come through Him, so of course he does what is necessary to manifest that in you. Unhappiness, trials, suffering . . . these are the tools that God uses to show you your need for Him! And when you lean on Him, when you surrender your misconception that you deserve happiness and that if God really loved you, He'd give it to you, then and then alone will you find that true joy that is deeper than the petty drudgery of every day difficulties. God loves you too much to give you what you think you want! It's the same reason you (hopefully) don't let your children eat as many cookies as they want. It might make them happy now, but in the long run, you know that it's bad for them. This Thanksgiving, be thankful that God loves you enough to let you hurt sometimes, that He doesn't sell out His long-term plan for your joy with an intermediate and inadequate substitute. Your trials are proof that God loves you and wants you to be the best version of yourself!