I like to watch Q&A’s on YouTube, TikTok, and various social media outlets to see what kinds of questions people are asking. There are a lot… I mean a lot. A common trend that I see, especially among high school age and early college age, is this question about God caring about whether we are happy or not. “Does God care about my happiness,” people ask. Now the common answer among different apologists and speakers is to say “Of course! But…” and then talk about Jesus stating that we will suffer in this life. This answer is good, and its true, but its very common and I think there’s actually more to it than that.
If someone were to ask me that question, for example, the first thing I’d want to know is what they mean by happy. Often, speakers will usually just throw the question back at the questioner, but that’s not what I’m doing. I really do want to know what you mean by “happy” because happiness can be subjective if we mean different things when using the same word. It tends to be the case that when people use the word “happy” in our current cultural climate they mean something like pleasure. I’ve even heard the question used to defend sin! “Sure I cheated on my spouse, but doesn’t God care if I’m happy?”
Um… no. I’m going to say no. Not in that case. If your reading this with that kind of question in mind then be honest with yourself and realize that even you don’t care if God cares whether or not you are happy. You are using this idea of God caring as an excuse for sin. God doesn’t bend His will to yours, you bend your will to His. End of discussion.
But maybe you’re reading this thinking, “Whoa. Okay. That’s not me.” Good! So again, I refer back to my previous question: What do you mean by happy?
If it’s something like “pleasure” then I’m going to go ahead and venture to say no. Jesus didn’t promise a pleasure filled life. As a matter of fact, Jesus guaranteed life would be hard. In fact, Jesus says the gate is narrow. It’s not easy.
But what about a different way of understanding happiness? The Greeks had a good word for this: Telos. Telos is defined as the ultimate end, the ultimate goal, purpose, destiny, that for which you were made. I believe this is what the founding fathers meant as well when they penned, “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” The pursuit of purpose. What brings purpose to your life?
Spoiler alert: God. This idea of Telos is what philosophers and theologians call The Principle of Finality. Aquinas defines the principle of finality by stating “every agent acts for an end.” So what is your end? Your purpose? Your goal? To honor God. This is the only way that you will find purpose. God created you and you will not find purpose or meaning until you come back to the Creator. You have in you the imago dei, the image of God. As you live and breath now, right now, your current existence is due to God. And I don’t just mean the fact that you were born. God didn’t only create you in a way to say that He began your existence and you’ve been left to live your life since then. You’re not like a top that God spun and you are left to spin until your momentum runs out. He is upholding your very existence right now. Do you realize that? The foundation of you being alive right now is God who is upholding you at this very moment. He is the ground of your being. When you see this and realize that not only are you not alone but that you only exist because of God you should be humbled enough to bend the knee to God with a thankful heart and live for He who gave you life. Only then will you find meaning in your life. And when you do, that is what will get you through the tough times. Maybe you are going through tough times right now. Maybe you are reading this and life is good, but I assure you, we live in a fallen world and the tough times will come and when they do the only thing that will keep you standing is not you, but the ground on which you stand, the Ground of all being, God. Make God your foundation and nothing will knock you down.
Every good question has a follow up question. You might be thinking: Okay so God does care about my happiness granted that we understand happiness in the context of what provides purpose. Which is God, Himself. How can I live my life for God?
That my friends is for Part 2.