Yesterday I had the privilege of spending lunch celebrating birthdays with some wonderful friends from church.  Before the luncheon, I dropped off at a local store to buy birthday cards.  As I was sifting through the many options available I found this one.

can you believe this?

After my heart regained its skipped beat and a hermeneutical defibrillator brought me out of biblical cardiac arrest I whipped out my iPhone to document the occurrence.

God promised happiness where?  Can you show me chapter and verse?  I’d like to know because there are believers all over the world who risk their lives by just being Christians and they’d probably like to know about that verse that says God promises happiness, especially the next time someone they care about is hauled off by the police and tortured just being a Christ-follower.

Happiness?  Really?  A promise?

I love people being happy:  happy in love, happy in their work, happy in their relationships.  But God does not promise happiness in any of these areas.  Do you think Hosea was happy the day he was told to go buy Gomer back from the slave blocks?  Do you think Paul was happy that day they stoned him dead?

No, I don’t think so.  Content.  Yes.  Joyful.  Absolutely, but not happy!  It is a heresy of the western brand of Christianity that assumes God wants us happy.  Sometimes the best thing for us is to not be happy.  If you’re treating your spouse like garbage or are neglecting spiritual disciplines you should be unhappy and unsatisfied.  If there is sin which has not been confessed or past broken relationships which have not been dealt with, people should be unhappy.  The flip of that is also true in that sometimes being unhappy is the greatest possible good.  If I forfeit happiness in my life so that someone I love and care about can benefit, then this brings me joy or fulfillment even if happiness is lost.  I spent a lot of time this morning working through the Old Testament book of Job.  Not exactly a happy man, that Job.  Yet, he is filled with integrity and useful to the Lord and, I might add, in his great grief and distress he learns about himself and the nature of the world.  By not being happy, he grows as a person.

So do you and me, sometimes.

I find this card and this kind of thinking anathema.


  1. How about this:

    God has promised a measure of Happiness to those that are faithful to his Word. (That would be the Word John was talking about in John 1)

    I agree that our road is the more difficult path and am thankful everyday that God is there to light it for me. Happiness is such a flighty quality to hold whereas the “Joy of the Lord is my strength” This card, I am afraid was meant to “tickle someone’s ears” as opposed to exposing them to the truth. Hopefully, whatever encouragement that can be found here will be less embraced as a dogma than the understanding that what God does depends largely on how we follow Him.
    Proverbs 16:7 When God approves of your life,
    even your enemies will end up shaking your hand. The Message

  2. I agree whole-heartedly (I’m sure you are relieved to get my blessing on this). The thought that Gods wants us all happy is hard to reconcile with the life that Jesus and his earliest followers experienced

    • what bothers me most, ed, is that people often sign up to believe in a God or Christ who ‘promises happiness’ and then when the ebb and flow of life delivers the kinds of ups and downs that Christians face as well, then the concept of faith is called into question as people say, “God said i would be happy, but i am not happy, therefore God must not be real.”

  3. It must have been written by someone who also ascribes to the “name it and claim it” doctrine. Wishful thinking on their part with no basis in fact.

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