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God Wants You Happy?

This post is part of a discussion on Craig Groeschel’s book, The Christian Atheist, covering chapter 9: When you believe in God, but pursue happiness at any cost. Add to the discussion in the comments or add a response post from your blog to the link widget at the bottom. As always check out my friend & co-facilitator’s post at

God just wants me to be happy. This statement sounds good, but at its heart really is ridiculous.

I don’t mean to imply that God wants you miserable, far from it; but our own idea of happiness is not at the top of His list. You can certainly make a case for God wants me to be free, God wants me to experience His love, God wants me to recognize His goodness… The Bible supports of lots of promises that God has for us.

But why do we get stuck on the happiness idea?

We could blame society (and even many churches) for feeding us this idea over and over like a fast-food burger well past its prime. It is true. The world tells us that if we don’t like our spouse, find a new one. If our house is too small, get a bigger one. If your appearance needs some altering, take whatever measures you need.

The other thing that drives us is our own selfishness. As Craig points out in the book, there’s a way that seems right to us but it leads to death (Proverbs 14:12). Look back at some of the worst decisions you’ve made. If you look closely, you just may see that there were a lot of little decisions that seemed right at the time, like they would make you happy. Our selfishness constantly pushes us and offers us rationalizations to get us what we want.

In other words, all these forces combine as if to shout in our ears: chase happiness!

If we really follow Jesus, we’ll sometimes be uncomfortable, mistreated, misunderstood, heartbroken, etc. He said the world would give us trouble, but we have His peace. I know from personal experience that the things I have been most reluctant to do and shoot for have been some of the most fulfilling to me.

In some ways happiness to me used to mean being left alone, staying on the fringes, and not drawing a lot of attention. If I had stayed away from God, that may have been my life, but I knew there was something else that I couldn’t attain on my own and I ultimately wouldn’t have been  happy staying there.

For me to consider being a worship leader or pastor at that point was positively laughable, but God knows what He created me for and the plans and purposes that would bring the deepest sense of fulfillment. What I thought of as happiness wouldn’t cut it now.

Another example: I love a clean, clutter-free house. Kids stand in the way of this dream. Do I make everyone’s life miserable in the pursuit of my happiness or just leave altogether because I don’t like all the chaos? No, I love my kids. I may strongly advise them to pick up their toys, but I also want them to be kids who play, imagine, learn, and grow.

When I read this chapter, I immediately thought of the book of Ecclesiastes. The author, Solomon, had wisdom, riches, and anything he could ask for. He tried to figure it all out and came to the conclusion that it was meaningless, like chasing after the wind (Ecclesiastes 1:14).

What a vivid description of our pursuit of happiness. It’s like trying to  chase down the wind and catch it. It’s not going to happen and we’ll waste our energy, time, and lives. We grab contentment where we can and the end of the matter is to “Fear God and keep His commandments” (Ecclesiastes 12:13).

It’s certainly easy to get caught up in thinking happiness is all-important, but it leads down some roads I know we would agree we would rather stay away from.

We have to guard against it by receiving wise counsel, maintaining a grateful heart, and fully embracing His word.

What about you? Have you ever made the decision to chase happiness only to find a dead-end? What about a time you followed God even though you thought it would be terrible but found fulfillment instead? I would love to hear your stories.


  1. I was a finance manager at a car lot and my wife was upper management for an oil company 4 years ago. We made almost 200k per year between the two of us. We never saw each other and we were miserable. We kept buying stuff to make us happy. Nothing we did filled that void, until we fully surrendered to Him.

    Very good stuff bro.
    michael recently posted..Before And AfterMy Profile

    • Wow, Michael. A lot of people would think if they had “that kind of money” they’d be happy. It’s such a subtle trap for sure. Thanks for sharing your testimony and thanks for living sold out to Jesus.

  2. Great thoughts.

    Def. makes you dig deeper and examine the difference between happiness vs. joy in this life.

    I read this somewhere and have in on my fridge:

    Happiness is dependent on outward circumstances. Joy, on the other hand, is internal and constant.
    *~Michelle~* recently posted..Consider the sparrowMy Profile

    • Exactly, Michelle. And there’s nothing wrong with being happy, but if it’s our driving goal (and we think it’s God’s driving goal), things are way out of balance. You gotta love “joy unspeakable and full of glory” (1 Peter 1:8). Thanks!

  3. Happiness…. It comes down to me thinking of God as Father.
    My daddy wanted me to be happy. But when I thought happiness was playing with knives (I was four), he took the knife from me and hit the hand holding the knife. When I thought happiness was sneaking out of the house to visit a neighbor I was told to leave alone that day, he spanked my butt (I was three). Three and four year olds may think playing with knives, and sneaking out at will may make them happy, but daddies know that children are happier if they don’t cut a finger off and aren’t lost, alone and scared…
    So yes, God wants me to be happy, but He ultimately knows better what will make me happy than I do…
    Helen recently posted..Summer BlessingsMy Profile

    • That’s it, Helen. His thoughts are not our thoughts and ways are not our ways! And God our Father has all wisdom so if He removes something or asks us to stay away from it (sin, opportunity, relationship, whatever), we can trust Him. This Father really does know best!


  4. This chapter had some 2x4’s in it. I love this statement:

    I know from personal experience that the things I have been most reluctant to do and shoot for have been some of the most fulfilling to me.

    A lot of truth in it. When we step out of our comfortable places and trust in God as we do His will, we will experience more than a temporary emotion. We will encounter a transforming joy that transcends all we have ever known.

    • Thank you Dusty. Yeah, I think the key comes down once again to trusting God. We can think “I know myself and I could never do/be that. That would make me unhappy” or we can trust God and say “I know the One who created me and I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength.” I may not always be ‘happy’ but I do know fulfillment and joy…

  5. Happiness is so fleeting…but joy, that’s another thing! In His presence is so much joy, it makes happiness seem like decaf coffee….bleech!

    “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” Romans 15:13

    Great thoughts as usual !
    Jay Cookingham recently posted..Sabbath Rest MusingsMy Profile

    • I can’t tell you how much joy I got from reading your comment, Jay! Happiness is like decaf coffee compared to joy. What’s the point? Once you’ve tasted joy, you’re ruined! Thanks…

    • I am glad I read all the comments first because I was going to comment with this same verse! When I was a young child I remember wanted my Dad to be proud of me, to say things that made me know he loved me. Oddly enough, the moments that I knew he loved me came when he expressed his joy when something I did or said showed him that I trusted his direction. His joy in me gave me joy.
      Herb Halstead recently posted..givenupontheworldMy Profile

      • So true. Knowing, really knowing, His joy over us (as well as His love, care, compassion, etc.) gives us true joy. Great thoughts. Thanks Herb.

  6. Wow! I don’t know which one amazed me more, your blog or Dusty’s blog? Your reply to Dusty here did something to me. I don’t what it is. Have to pray over that one.

    I have a feeling this comment is going to be a loooooong comment. Sorry.
    I had problems months ago with christians here who say God will give you everything. Don’t you call that prosperity gospel? Yes, they also started here. They don’t mean what you NEED but what you WANT. I’m a person who doesn’t doubt that easily but they made me doubt and confused. They kept telling me that God was to take care of me. Where is the “Your will be done”? if they say they follow Jesus? I can’t say I follow Him, I try to. I couldn’t hold it anymore. They kept telling me to stand on the promises. What they meant was that I had the right to ask the Father to take care of me so He would definitely give me the job that suites me because I am His daughter. I told them and I tell you that is not how my relationship with God is. I trust Him. Of course I had times I did stand on His promise but after He told me to, and I did proclaim while I was praying for others but also because He told me to. I can’t tell Him over and over again that He has to give me a job that suits me. Or other things in life. Even about finances. The way they treated God. He had to arrange their finances while they were just spending more than they had. He had to give them the job exactly for them. It’s like not trusting Him. I can tell you I’ve lost a lot but God gave me more back than I can imagine. I lost my parents but He gave me parents back. I didn’t tell Him to give me parents? I told Him I needed a mother and there she was already in my life, sweet and kind just like my own mum. I told Him I needed a father and it was her husband, he is the father I never had before. I needed a house and it was the house in a street I told people I would never want to live. I can tell it’s such a beautiful house with one of the best view ever in our village with great neighbours and community. I don’t have a job. But I see God working through all this. I did ask God why it is everytime people pray for me or tell me God will give a job that suits me, I’m restless. The Lord made clear to me that was not the prayer He wanted to hear. So I did tell Him to make it clear to others not to pray like that anymore. I pray now everytime I write an e-mail or letter to a company I only want that job because it’s His will. And now I’m at peace. And the beauty of this is that after that a few people started to pray the same without telling them. And even I am not poor He provides without asking. He gives food through neighbours, He gives money through people I helped while I tell them they don’t have to, He gives and gives and gives. The prosperity-gospel-friend? I couldn’t talk to her anymore. It was so confusing. By the way her finances are not arranged yet and she lost her job and after finding one again she lost it again. So far prosperity. I think we forget that happiness is not in the things on earth. At Dusty’s blog I wrote that the first time I experienced happiness was when God showed me He was real. He did exist.

    • Ani, I love your passion and honesty. Thank you so much. Some of us Christians convince ourselves that we are running after God when we are running after things. But Jesus said in Matthew 6 not to chase these things like the unbelieving because our Father knows what we need.

      You’re so right- it’s not about forcing God to do anything or using His promises against Him. It’s about knowing Him--really knowing Him. That’s what brings the happiness and contentment.

      Again, thank you.

      • Where were you when I needed this? I tried to tell the people around me this but no one confirmed and now you do. This really healed that part what was hurt and confused. Thank you, thank you , thank you , thank you. For letting God use you. Really, you have no idea what that means to me.

        • Glad I could be here and share some encouragement, Ani. You just blessed my day! 🙂

  7. Sadly, I have done my share of chasing after the wind. God has to continually teaching me contentment.
    Kevin M. recently posted..Lebron James and the pursuit of happinessMy Profile

    • On some levels, it’s as if we have to be taught discontentment. Most kids are so happy despite the circumstances or what they have/don’t have. But once we get that lesson of discontentment, we carry it and deal with it over and over. Sometimes dissatisfaction is good, but not with the material things. Thanks Kevin.

  8. Insightful! Thanks for this 🙂
    Barry recently posted..390 Lookbook VoldemortMy Profile

    • Thank you!

  9. I think more pastors should say this to their congregations. I’m slowly learning that it isn’t my happiness that God wants, it’s my trust.

    • I don’t know, Billy--I wish I could say I’m learning it, but it seems like one of those lessons that take a lifetime. It’s such a back and forth thing, but you are so right. It’s all about trust. Thank you.


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