Imagine if our churches were known for being communities of Jesus-centered happiness, overflowing with the sheer gladness of what it means to live out the good news of great joy! And what if when our families left church and went to school, work, restaurants, and musical and dramatic performances, they didn’t feel they were walking away from God but toward the same happy God they’ve been worshiping?
Envision how contagious the doctrine of God’s happiness could be if taught and grasped and lived out. What if we really believed the gospel doesn’t just offer us and our children and our communities and our world what we need but offers us what, in the depths of our hearts, we want?
What if when suffering came, we faced it with an underlying faith that erupted into genuine gladness and thanksgiving? What if instead of looking away or being paralyzed by the needs of this world, we—with humility and gladness—reached out to intervene for the hungry, the sick, the unborn, the racially profiled and the persecuted? Wouldn’t our children be less likely to leave the Christian faith, push away church as a bad memory and pursue the world’s inferior happiness substitutes that will ultimately destroy them? I’m not talking about contrived happiness as a pretense or a strategy for church growth, but the genuine happiness that naturally flows from God and the gospel.
Jonathan Edwards said, “It is of infinite importance … to know what kind of being God is. For he is … the only fountain of our happiness.”[iii] Sadly, some imagine that following Christ boils down to, “Just say no to happiness!” My hope and prayer is that we can counteract that misconception in our families and churches with a biblical doctrine of happiness, built upon the happiness of God. May we teach them that “in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore” (Psalm 16:11).
[i] Augustine, Augustine’s Confessions (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2014), 52.
[ii] Augustine, The Confessions of Saint Augustine (New York: E. P. Dutton, 1900), 255.
[iii] Jonathan Edwards, “The Importance and Advantage of a Thorough Knowledge of Divine Truth,” Select Sermons.