The mantra of people today in every aspect of life is: whatever makes me happy. Everything people do and want to ensure is happiness. This bug has infected and influenced even those follow Christ. So much so, sermons and teachings have become DIYs of achieving this elusive element of life. Churches and believers have forgotten the basic trait and calling of faith!
Christians who profess Christ and have signed up to be His disciples need to understand one thing – we have been called to holiness, not happiness! Nowhere in the Bible does it say that we are called to be happy, but it does say much about being holy.
Both our Lord Jesus and the Apostolic leaders of the early church reiterated and emphasized that in this world we will have tribulations, trials, and testings. In the book of Acts, Paul and Barnabas …preached the gospel in that city and won a large number of disciples. Then they returned to Lystra, Iconium and Antioch, strengthening the disciples and encouraging them to remain true to the faith. “We must go through many hardships to enter the kingdom of God,” they said. In the Gospel of John, Jesus declares: “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”
Does this mean that we will always be sad, sorrowful, and mourning? Should Christians go around always as though they have swallowed bitter gall and hemlock? Are we to be bereft of happiness and enjoyment? Not all!
Indeed, our Lord Jesus said: I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. Apostle Paul writing to the church at Rome, to those who lived under the shadow of being tossed into the great Roman Colosseum for the entertainment of the masses, proclaims: For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit!
Why then did I say that we are not called to happiness? Am I contradicting myself by it, especially when the Scriptures say, “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law”? Did I mean to be a kill-joy and a long-faced person like the pharisees? Not at all!
I am just aligning an oversight and pinpointing the need to correct the understanding of true joy.
Joy or Happiness
Most of the time we confuse joy and happiness, which miscomprehension is the reason for our wrong focus or emphasis. Joy and happiness may seem similar, but can be differentiated from each other based on the reasons causing the feeling and the nature of the feeling.
Joy is an enduring and underlying sense, a core human experience that is deeper and more complex than a feeling or emotion. According to Pamela Ebstyne King, joy is something one can practice, cultivate, or make a habit. Consequently, she suggests that joy is most fully understood as a virtue that involves our thoughts, feelings, and actions in response to what matters most in our lives. Thus, joy is an enduring, deep delight in what holds the most significance. Joy, is therefore, not really dependent on surroundings and is a function of the inward state, attitude and orientation of the human being.
That is why even at the most dire moment of His life, when He was about to be rejected by both man and God, Jesus Christ could say: My joy I give to you, Apostle Paul was able to advise, Rejoice in the Lord, and again I say, rejoice, and Apostle James could comfort by saying Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds!
Psychology defines happiness as a state of emotional well-being that a person experiences either in a narrow sense, when good things happen in a specific moment, or more broadly, as a positive evaluation of one’s life and accomplishments overall—that is, subjective well-being. Also that, happiness is an emotional state characterized by feelings of joy, satisfaction, contentment, and fulfillment. While happiness has many different definitions, it is often described as involving positive emotions and life satisfaction. Thus, we can conclude, that happiness is determined by and dependent on circumstances. Happiness is a function of your environment, and impacted or influenced by your surroundings.
Joy is stronger, characterized by inward peace and contentment, and related to witnessing or achieving selflessness to the point of personal sacrifice. It is the outcome of being spiritually connected to God or to people, and at its root has spiritual experiences, caring for others, gratitude, and thankfulness.
Happiness is outward expression of elation, evoking feelings of intense pleasure and bliss. It is connected to earthly experiences and material objects such as when you get or buy something. . Happiness is temporary based on outward or physical events and happenings.
Joy is a byproduct of a moral lifestyle, while happiness can be experienced from any good activity, food or company. Thus joy is permanent and lasting, taking its cue from inward inclination and direction.
Now what does holiness have to do with joy? How is holiness important for joy? Isn’t holiness a kill-joy? Not at all!
Holiness, godliness or saintly is the state of being holy or being sanctified. Holiness is the characteristic of God’s nature that is at the very core of His being and describes both his goodness and his power. It is completely unique, radiating from God like an energy, so overwhelming all-powerful that none can approach. That’s why human beings fear death, for it means facing a holy God and all religions talk about appeasing Him.
The view of God presented in Isaiah 6:1–4 leaves an individual with a deep sense of awe at the greatness of His majesty. In the Old Testament, only those He invited into His presence, like Moses, could stand before Him. In the New Testament, God in His mercy, made a way for us to approach Him and have a relationship with Him as His people, His family through His Son Jesus: Therefore, brothers and sisters, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is, his body, let us draw near to God with a sincere heart and with the full assurance that faith brings, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water.
God’s holiness gives Him a completeness and blessedness. As the greatest possible being, God is holy, separate from all that is not God, perfect in every way, and thus infinitely blessed.
The Greek word often translated as “blessed” is makarios, which means “fortunate,” “happy,” “enlarged,” or “lengthy.” Jesus used the term blessed in the framework of the Beatitudes to describe the inner quality of a faithful servant of God. This blessedness is a spiritual state of well-being and prosperity – a deep, joy-filled contentment that cannot be shaken by any outward disturbances or discrepancies. That is why God is not shaken or moved by anything, including our sin!
God’s blessedness – his happiness, delight, and self-satisfaction in Who He is – results from the perfection of his being. Holiness and happiness are indivisible parts of God’s being and cannot be separated.
Thus, to be truly blessed or joyful or happy, one must be holy. Holiness and happiness cannot be segregated or dichotomized, for they are synonymous. You can search for happiness in many ways and try to find it in many things. Ultimately, you will realize that such only holiness leads to happiness.
There’s another reason why we cannot find happiness and will fail if we seek it apart from God – because God made us to be like Him! In the Bible …God said, “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.” Mankind is unique in that we resemble thr Creator, a singularity that no other creation shares. So, being holy is the way to be healthy and whole, happy and satisfied, for A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones. That is why, over and over, the Bible admonishes us to be holy! For a person to be holy, they should be devoted entirely to God, dedicated (or consecrated) to God’s ways.
Happiness is a feeling, but holiness is a choice. The feeling of happiness is based on emotions that can change like the wind, but holiness is about living God’s purpose every day as a dedicated act of worship.
Holiness is a gift you receive when you put your trust in Jesus, receive his righteousness and the gift of the Holy Spirit.
Thus, the pursuit of holiness is truly the pursuit of happiness. Seeking to be holy and pleasing to God is the right and only way to be happy and joyful.
As we practise following God, Who is the only One Who is truly happy as He is fully holy, real gladness and satisfaction will saturate us. We will be full of joy that will make life seem good and not dreary, even when things outside don’t line up to be good!
Don’t seek happiness, seek holiness, or better still, seek and pursue God, the Author and the authentic Source as well as Resource of happiness and joy!
Read the real Christmas story by the author in https://www.patheos.com/blogs/spicedmulling/2022/12/christmas-story-poem-what-was-what-is-and-what-is-to-come/