Friday, March 7, 2014

Should Christians be Happy ALL the Time?

Isaiah and Eloise love listening (and dancing) to music. We have a couple of kids praise and worship CD's and they both know how to pop them into the computer and get their music to play.

The other day their CD was playing and a very old and familiar children's song came on, "Happy All The Time." You would probably recognize the song if you heard it. The lyrics are basically a repetition of these lines:

I’m in right, outright, upright, downright
Happy all the time 
I’m in right, outright, upright, downright
Happy all the time
Since Jesus Christ came in
And took away my sin
I’m in right, outright, upright, downright
Happy all the time

At first I wasn't really paying attention to the lyrics, but the song is super catchy and I found myself singing it long after it was done playing. And as I sang it, the lyrics starting bothering me more and more. 

Here's why: As the song above suggests, there are many, many Christians who believe that we're supposed to be happy {all} of the time. And there are even some who believe that if we're not, we're sinning; that we're doing the wrong thing by allowing ourselves to feel sorrow or pain. 

Shouldn't Christians be smiling, happy people all of the time? I mean, we are followers of the one who suffered to the point of death and then was raised from the dead. We have so much to be happy about: there is a God, life after death, justice, renewal, peace.... Why would we ever be sad?


But here's where some Christians get confused. There is a difference between {happiness} and {joy}. The Greek work for happiness is Makarios and it refers to freedom from normal cares and worries. It is used to describe a person who is experiencing good fortune: money, health, children, etc. And it's also how we use the word in English. When things are going well for us, when our outward situations are good, we have money in the checking account, no death, and no illness, we feel {happy}. Life is good.

The Greek word for rejoice or joy is Chairo and means to experience or delight in God's grace. It is described by the ancient Greeks as the "culmination of being" and the "good mood of the soul." It is something that is found only in God and comes with virtue and wisdom. The ancient Greeks described the opposite of Chairo not as sadness, but as fear.

The Bible does not describe Jesus as always happy. In fact, Jesus was NOT far removed from sorrow and suffering. Isaiah 53:3 tells us that Jesus was "despised and rejected by mankind, a man of suffering, and familiar with pain." Jesus knew sorrow and yet we count no one more faithful to God than him. Isn't there room for us to experience sorrow as well?

Nowhere in the Bible do we have a direct command to be happy all the time. What we do have in the Bible, however, is the command to have JOY.

"Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!" Philippians 4: 4-7

"But rejoice insofar as you are sharing Christ's sufferings, so that you may also be glad and shout for joy when his glory is revealed." 1 Peter 4:13


{Happiness} is that great feeling that you have when everything is going smoothly. {Joy} is what God gives you in the midst of trouble. Both happiness and joy have no fear - happiness because nothing is wrong, and joy because we have become willing to trust God that our suffering is serving a purpose for our greater good (Romans 8:28). 

We have happiness BECAUSE of our situation, we have joy IN SPITE OF our situation.

When Paul says in Philippians that we should rejoice, he is acknowledging that Christians {will} have problems. No matter how much faith we've got. Some people will get diseases no matter how many people pray for healing. Some people will die way before their time. Others will battle financial difficulties, infidelity, depression, infertility, abuse, and unspeakable heartache. And in the midst of it all we are told not to be happy, but to REJOICE. To believe that God has everything under control and is working out everything for HIS glory and OUR good.

We don't need to pretend to be happy all of the time. All of our feelings are a part of a life of faith. Just as the book of Psalms would not be complete without the Psalms of lament, so too would our lives not be complete without our laments, sorrows, and tears as part of our story of faith. 

What things are keeping you from joy today? What are you anxious about and trying to control? 

These last several months have been some of the most difficult ones Drew and I have ever experienced. As you may recall from this post, we have had a very draining year physically, financially, and spiritually. We are still living in limbo as Drew is studying for a second test he has to take before being fully hired on with Edward Jones, we have to move out of our current house in May and don't yet know where we will go, and finances are tight. Recently we've had a death on Drew's side of the family. My little sister is currently facing a debilitating illness that doctors have yet to diagnose, and, as she's currently living in Uganda with my family and cannot get stabilized enough to fly, we don't yet know how she will get back to the U.S. to get the medical treatment she needs. (You can read more about Janae's condition here). These are sad and scary things that are weighing heavy on my heart. 

Yet the great power of faith, TRUE JOY, is in knowing that even when we're not happy, even when we're sorrowful, even when our eyes are founts of tears and our hearts are filled with pain, God is with us. He is the only one who can give us joy in the midst of any and all circumstances, even when we don't feel happy. 


18 comments:

  1. Very nicely said Amber and so true! Last year was a tough one for us too. Our house flooded, I had three miscarriages, and we lost Travis's mom after a difficult battle with cancer. I was so thankful for the joy God gave me despite the sadness. Praying for you and your beautiful family.

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    1. Thank you, Lisa. I'm so thankful in times like these that we have the Lord! Don't know how we'd make it through without that hope. So sorry for your sorrows and I hope they have brought you closer to the Lord through it all!

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  2. This gave me chills. You are spot on! I think this is one of the more difficult lessons in deepening one's faith. Thank you for sharing.

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    1. Definitely a difficult lesson! So much easier to talk about having joy in difficult situations than to actually live it out!

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  3. We just talked about joy, happiness and Isaiah yesterday in CBS. I love how God always lines things up like that when we need to hear it.
    I'm praying for Janae today. That she will be at peace long enough tobe able to fly soon and that she will be able to get the help she needs.
    I'm also praying that you will have peace these nect few weeks as you wait for tests, baby and worry about Janae.

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    1. Wow, so cool! Love it when God times things like that! Thank you for praying for Janae and our family! That means so much. <3

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  4. I've heard Psalm 30:5 quoted so many times that it pretty much went in one ear and out the other. After reading this post, I now get it. I've always understood what it meant, but I now actually "get" it. Thank you for sharing this word with us.

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    1. You're welcome! Thanks for stopping by!

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  5. Joy, for me, is knowing all is well though in the external world it doesn't appear to be. I will take joy because it is lasting. Happiness is a beautiful balloon that may fly away, but joy is the rock. Thank you for being a voice. :)

    Natalie @ http://maypopshop.com/crochet/

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    1. I agree, Natalie. I like your comparison!

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  6. For me, Faith and Peace are my rocks, I may find turmoil and sadness in my life, but my faith and inner peace keep me grounded and guide me back to my path. I love happiness, but have learned it can be not as reliable as my faith and inner peace.. I had never really thought much about 'Joy' until reading your post... I suppose I have Joy also as part of my life, just never identified it in this way.. I love when someone writes something that moves me to think of things differently and look inside for where I can grow more.

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    1. Thank you for sharing your insights! It sounds like you definitely have joy as a part of your life too. <3

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  7. Beautiful post! I agree, I'm not always "happy", and sometimes I'll actually say that I'm sad. But in the grand scheme of things, I'm so thankful and joyful for so many things. I think it's important for folks to realize that Christians are still human, too…not perfectly happy all the time :)

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    1. You are so right, Kristen. Christians are human too. And if we can't be allowed to express human emotions (through the lens of Christ) then how can we expect to reach those who are not believers? They would have no grounds to relate to us on!

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  8. I agree with you completely! You did a great job writing this article. We also have been going through some very trying times. I know without a doubt we are doing God's plan for our life but it is not the American Dream. It has been the biggest struggle we have ever faced!

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    1. I hear ya, Jill. Sometimes life is extremely tough and it just doesn't seem like this could possibly be the way God wants it all to work out. But I firmly believe He uses all situations and trials to grow and mold us and to make us stronger in Him. Hoping you soon have some light at the end of your tunnel and can someday look back and see how the pieces fit together!

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  9. OMG! Where is the love button for this? I LOVE this post. Key phrase: Joy in spite of...you said it all.

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