20 April 2013

Is God Indifferent about our Happiness?

Click here to read an excellent short passage by Tim Keller about God desiring our happiness.

I have heard several ministers preach that God does not care about our happiness. In saying this, they seem to confuse "pleasure" with "happiness." Yes, it is true that we will not always feel pleasure when following God, but this does not make Him indifferent to our happiness. Indeed, confusing pleasure with happiness is a characteristic of our present culture, and these ministers seem to be reacting to a cultural trend instead of preaching the eternal truth about our relationship with God.

Even worse, by claiming that God is indifferent to our happiness, these ministers unintentionally make God less than our parents, friends, and others who desire us to have a happy life. So, because I understand that they desire my well-being, why would I desire to follow an indifferent God?

Pleasure is momentary, and by pursuing wrong pleasures or even good pleasures in the wrong time, we can find ourselves unhappy with the consequences. Even if we do not feel remorse due to a pleasure's overwhelming sensation, or because we do not experience bad consequences, we still offend God when we are indifferent to Him (Revelation 3: 15-16). To find happiness, we must understand its source.

Keller understands that God desires us to be happy, but he also notes that happiness is a byproduct of glorifying God. The Westminster Short Confession (also here) begins by asking, "What is the chief end of man?" The answer is, "Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever." Yes, we are to enjoy God.

As Keller notes, happiness does not come from using God as a means to our happiness. I should add that this also means we must not seek pleasure as a means to happiness because it places pleasure as an idol in place of God (John 1:1-5; see also Keller's book, Counterfeit Gods).

I once heard a radio talk show host, Dennis Prager, note that happiness is what we feel when we do what we are supposed to do. An example is that of a parent getting up in the middle of the night to take care of their child. It is not pleasurable, but afterwards (maybe much later after a good night's sleep) he or she is happy as a parent. I think Prager got this one right. I might add that doing the right thing must not be defined by human standards. Likewise, happiness is not found by following abstractions such as minimal ethical standards. Rather, happiness must be defined by its source: God, the Creator.

In Matthew 6:33, Jesus tells us, "But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you" (Crossway Bibles (2011-02-09). The Holy Bible English Standard Version (ESV) (Kindle Locations 37819-37820). Crossway. Kindle Edition).

Yes, God desires us to be happy. He is a most loving God. Here is the beginning point to finding true happiness.