This week, a Gallup Poll has reported pretty dismal mental health ratings, adding to a year full of statistics about depression, suicide, porn, stress and substance abuse. 2020 stinks, and the world doesn’t know how to handle it. So can we please stop adding to the problem by saying that Christianity doesn’t make Christians happy?
I know, I know. When we say this, we’re trying to explain that we–and our happiness–aren’t the point. We’re reminding one another that our faith doesn’t protect us from life in a broken world. We’re saying that the abiding joy in Christ is substantially different than flurries of happiness that may come. These theological truths help us mature and live godly lives regardless of events. So what’s the problem?
4 reasons why we need to stop saying Christianity doesn’t make us happy:
1) It Guts the One True Source of Hope.
Usually, I’d end with this as the culmination of all the points I’m listing, But frankly, the stakes are literally life and death, and I don’t want to risk you not finishing this post. The world needs hope, and we have it. Your own story may include turning to God after you hit rock bottom of despair or emptiness, but what if in that moment, a Christian had told you that their faith doesn’t fix the pain?
2) It’s a Lie.
I’m not arguing with the good truths that we mean when we say this. But I will say that the actual statement isn’t true. A life of wisdom, righteousness, community, grace and love feels better than a lonely, hopeless, selfish one. And that’s not even listing those mountaintop experiences: those times being so awed of Jesus that your heart almost bursts with worship, or experiencing God’s lavish love and grace firsthand, or watching Him transform your little action into an eternally significant homerun. Your soul knows how to describe this (even if it’s been trained out of you): happiness.
3) The World Doesn’t Get It.
While we wax on about “happiness” versus “joy in the Lord”, nobdy else knows what we’re talking about. Look up joy or happiness in a dictionary or thesaurus and you’re going to see the words linked. The idea that happiness is linked to what “happens to you” may flow well in a sermon, but it simply doesn’t hold up. In normal English, as well as the original biblical languages, they’re basically synonyms.
4) It’s Unbiblical.
Scripture says the Lord’s people will be happy. See verses like “To the person who pleases him, God gives wisdom, knowledge and happiness” (Eccl 2:26a, NIV), “Happy are the people whose God is the Lord.” (Ps 144:15b, CSB), “Rejoice in the Lord always. Again I say, rejoice!” (Phil 4:4). Oh, your version says “joy” or “blessed” but never happy? Do a word study on the original Hebrew or Greek, and you’ll find descriptions like mirth, gladness, delight, pleasure and yes, happiness (see #3 above)!
So let’s start admitting it: Following Jesus makes us happy. Not only happy, not always happy, and certainly not most importantly happy, but happy nonetheless.