The Joy of Happiness
You’re happy when you’ve worked up a good appetite for God. He’s food and drink in the best meal you’ll ever eat.
I was in my early 20’s when I heard Louie Gigglio say that God ca
res more about my holiness than my happiness. This is the first time I remember that idea being verbalized so clearly. It’s an idea that was never taught in my home but was so prevalent in many evangelical books and conferences. And I was nothing if not a faithful disciple of this Biblically wrong idea, thinking it was true, so bought it hook, line, and sinker.
A decade later I sat in my counselors office and she looked at me lovingly and said that God can get glory through my happiness. I didn’t believe her. By that time I had believed that I was broken in a way that meant I would never get the life I’d longed for and had honestly found a distorted contentment in giving up on dreams and hope.
Fifteen years into this journey I now see the red flags that are present every time a Christian religious leader tries
to pit holiness against happiness. There’s a book called “Sacred Marriage” that is popular and the whole premise is marriage isn’t about making you happy but rather making you holy. As Shelia Wray Gregorie so beautifully put it: non-Christian “marriage books tend to focus on helping people create a marriage they love, while too often evangelical marriage books focus on helping people stay in a marriage they hate.”
Chris and I ended up leaving the book study because the book was full of toxic messages and even glorified women staying in abusive situations because they were “seeking holiness rather than happiness.” Because again, the lie that holiness and happiness are opposed to each other and Christians should choose the author’s idea of holiness over happiness saying God cares more about the institution of marriage than He does the people in the marriage… so many abusive ideologies in most popular evangelical marriage books…
A few years ago I read “The Sacrament of Happy” by Lisa Harper and it was so healing. While I don’t agree with all of what she does, especially being a part of the “circle the wagons” culture of American evangelicalism when she platforms men like Dave Ramsey in light of all the evidence of his unChristlike leadership and words, I am thankful for this book.
There is a greek word “makarioi” which is usually translated “blessed” in English Bibles, but can also be accurately translated “happy”. It can be found over and over again in Matthew 5.
I’m reading through the book of Matthew using The Message Version. It is a transliteration that Eugene Peterson did for his congregation. It’s a beautiful example of a pastor leading his congregation when he discovered they were struggling to comprehend what they were reading. I love it.
“You’re blessed when you’ve worked up a good appetite for God. He’s food and drink in the best meal you’ll ever eat.” Matthew 5:6 The Message
Isn’t that beautiful!!
As someone who had the words “blessed” and “holy” weaponized through I believe well-meaning teachers and authors, my heart clings to knowing that I’m happy when you’ve worked up a good appetite for God. He’s food and drink in the best meal you’ll ever eat.
To be honest, many days I have to fight for that appetite because when I realize the sacred texts I love so much are being used in ways to control, when people take the words of Paul out of context to try and make the love of God about hierarchy and power…
So I go back to the words of Jesus. My Savior while I know I still have misconceptions about Him because His vastness I am sure He loves me. And for me today, my appetite for Him looks like making a picture for my phone’s lock screen to serve as a reminder to thank Him that He is the best meal I’ll ever eat.
And for a woman who loves a good meal, that resonates deeply with me…
For me today that meal looks like taking time to be in the silence with Him. I’m reading “The Wisdom of the Body” and it is teaching me how to be even more present in this body so I can enjoy God with my whole being. Seeing how beautifully God made our stress response systems and learning how to see them as a gift as I also learn to move from a state of stress to a state of rest.
It’s a beautiful thing to be aware of the stress rising up, having the tools now to know what has triggered it, and to be able to be kind to my body. To thank it for working so hard to protect me these 45 years. To settle in to the safety that is my life. To settle in to the safety that is knowing I have a God who loves me and created a way for me to enjoy the journey of this life.
To realize God created our bodies in a way that can process the pain of this world and fully embrace the joy of it because He really is the best meal I’ll ever take part in.
If you find yourself reading this today I am praying that you will hear The One Who Loves You Most as He speaks His love to you in the seemingly mundane ways. I am praying that you will walk even more fully into experiencing whole hearted and whole bodied living, and that your day is so full of happiness. Both the fleeting happiness that is found in a good joke and the deep happiness that is found in the smile of someone you love. And I am praying this in the name of Jesus, a name that too often has been weaponized but who walked this earth to be embodiment of love.