Many years ago, “singer” Larry Norman asked, “Why should the devil have all the good music?”
Sometimes I feel like asking the same question about feelings, especially the wonderful emotion of happiness. Why are Christians, maybe especially those of us who are reformed Christians, so suspicious of happiness?
“He wants to be happy? Must be a heretic!”
Why have we allowed the devil to steal this amazing emotion from the Christian life and claim it as his own. Here are a few reasons that I’ve come up with – maybe you can think of some more.
1. It’s been idolized
People have made a god of happiness, seeking it first, pursuing it in selfish ways, and trying to find it apart from God. Happiness often falls into the same category as the gods of sex and alcohol – so misused that we think we dare not use it at all.
2. It’s usually associated with the superficial and the artificial
We look at Oscar “happiness,” Friday night “happiness,” Spartan “happiness,” new car “happiness,” etc., and know that such “happiness” is so shallow and so short. Who wants to be seen smiling in such superficial and artificial company?
3. It’s so difficult to get
Happiness often seems to fall into the “unattainable” category, especially as we get older. What’s the point in trying so hard for something that very few seem to achieve?
4. It’s so difficult to keep
Even when happiness is grasped, it sometimes so quickly slips out of our fingers again, that we think, “What was the point in it all?” All that effort for something so fragile.
5. We fear it
Some people have experienced #4 so often, that they now fear happiness. “I’m happy….Oh No! Something terrible must be round the corner.” Better not to be happy at all than to be be happy with a target on your back.
6. We’re extremists
When something has been so abused and misappropriated, we don’t want to be associated with it. We might even run to the opposite extreme and make a virtue of being somber and sad. I mean, if Joel Osteen says it’s good, it must be bad, right?
7. Negativity is easier
Although God made us perfectly holy and perfectly happy, sin has broken us to the very core of our beings. Our now perverse characters and twisted personalities often find it far easier to see the negatives than the positives. Sadness is our default and it takes a lot of difficult work – spiritual, mental, and physical work – to get above our default and strive for happiness. Far easier to trundle along in the doldrums.
8. We have a wrong view of the world
As this world is fallen, sinful, and dying, we must not see or enjoy beauty in this world. That would be too unspiritual, too carnal, too “worldly.” However, God has given us richly all things to enjoy. Even though this world is fading, the Christian should be able to see more beauty and wisdom in the world than the non-Christian, and to enjoy and delight in it far more.
9. We have a wrong view of the Christian life
The Christian life is a life of repenting, of sorrowing over sin, of grieving over our unbelief, of weeping with those who weep, and so on. But that’s only half of it. We are to be “sorrowful yet always rejoicing.” We are to “rejoice in the Lord always.” We’re not to replace our sorrow with joy but rather join both together in a balanced harmony. How many, many times in the Bible is the Christian called “blessed”? No, I know, it’s not the same as happiness, but happiness is usually a large part of it.
10. We have a wrong view of God
If we think “happiness is suspect” our view of God is suspect. To put it another way, our essential and primary view of God will be our essential and primary emotion.
If we think of God only as a stern, judgmental, angry, suspicious, reluctant, cold, unfriendly and distant figure, that’s what we’ll be like.
However, if we think of God as forever blessed, as full of goodness, grace, and love, as rejoicing in saving sinners, as delighting in His people, as passionate about communicating Himself to His people, that’s what we’ll become.
Why should the devil have all the good feelings? Let’s reclaim happiness from the Devil, grab it back it out of his evil grasp, and put its energy back in the fuel tank of the Christian life. “The joy of the Lord is your strength.”