Occasionally I hear someone say, “God wants you to be holy, not happy”; or, “God is concerned about your holiness, not your happiness.” I understand the intentions behind this sentiment. They speak against a common, godless mentality that claims that God’s greatest desire is our comfort and pleasure—even if that is apart from him, living in sin. Of course, such a mindset is unbiblical and ungodly. At the same time, this doesn’t mean that our happiness and holiness are mutually exclusive.
The Psalmist believed in Psalm 16 that true happiness came from being in the presence of a Holy God:
“Therefore my heart is glad, and my whole being rejoices;
my flesh also dwells secure.
For you will not abandon my soul to Sheol,
or let your holy one see corruption.
You make known to me the path of life;
in your presence there is fullness of joy;
at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.” (9-11)
Notice, absolute joy and eternal pleasure are experienced in the presence of God. This is fundamental to our understanding of who God is and what he promises his people. It isn’t that he wants to deprive us of joy by His commands, but that he wants to maximize our joy by calling us to holiness. Sin and selfishness leave us empty and hollow, robbed of genuine life and vitality; holiness completes us as we are restored as image-bearers of God’s goodness. We are happier when we are holy simply because we were made to be holy.
Yet this happiness only occurs when we fully give ourselves to the Lord. Notice:
“The LORD is my chosen portion and my cup;
you hold my lot.
The lines have fallen for me in pleasant places;
indeed, I have a beautiful inheritance.” (5-6)
When God becomes “our chosen portion” it is then that the joy of God becomes our beautiful inheritance. In other words, “Seek first the kingdom of God” (Matt. 6:33). This is a happiness that is unassailable. Nothing can rob us of a joy that is founded on our eternal God. The promise of everlasting pleasure is the sunrise on every sorrow. We know, that no matter the darkness that may come, the day of God’s goodness will one day shine for eternity.