By Lisa Huddleston
“If you know these things, happy are you if you do them” (John 13:17).
A young friend recently asked a very serious question. With tears brimming in her dark eyes, she bit out, “Does God really care if we’re happy?” I heard the pain in her voice and felt challenged to reply. Instinctively, I answered, “Yes! He’s our Father, and he loves us. He promises to give us what we need. If we ask for bread, he won’t give us a stone.” Again, she challenged, “That’s meeting our needs. Is that all there is to being happy?” In frustration and identifying with her pain, I returned the challenge, “What we think doesn’t matter. What does God have to say about it?” And then she left the room.
I wish I could have answered her better. I wish I could have shared some golden words that eased her pain—some absolute truths that would have sent her away in smiles and not in tears. Yet, the truth is life is hard. There. I said it. Some days stink. And sometimes we are absolutely unhappy, even miserable. But, I do believe that God cares. And as I have searched for truth that doesn’t rest on my feelings alone I have seen that in both the Hebrew and the Greek scriptures, the word that is translated happy also means blessed.
Before you write me off as being too esoteric, please, hear what I have to say today. Both the Greek makarios and the Hebrew ‘esher mean “to be blessed, fortunate, well off, or happy” (from The New Stong’s Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible). And in the texts I examined which contained these words, the blessings of God and therefore the happiness of the souls involved were tied absolutely to knowing and doing his will.
Even as I write, I can feel my young friend rolling her eyes at this typical Sunday school answer. But, this is the truth. God wants us to be happy, but not if we are outside of his will and not if our being so will do anything to damage his name. And that is why those mature saints who I read about and the handful I have been blessed to know can suffer and still call themselves happy. That is why it is written in James, “Behold, we consider those blessed (makarios) who remained steadfast. You have heard of the steadfastness of Job, and you have seen the purpose of the Lord, how the Lord is compassionate and merciful” (James 5:11). Job? Happy or blessed are not the words I think of in connection with that name; yet, he was steadfast. He did not curse God and die. He made it through the suffering to the blessing that waited for him. And in the end, he was happy.
Still, my young friend, I know that this doesn’t really answer your question in the immediate and soul-soothing way you hope for. So I will resort once again to my feelings. I know your parents. I am a parent. And I know that one of the best metaphors for our relationship with God is that he is our Heavenly Father. As our Father, I know that he cares when we are unhappy, but his ultimate concern is for his children to grow in him. Sometimes that means that we will hurt, but we won’t be hurting alone. He is there. Sometimes that means that we will discover more of his will and be “supremely blessed” (Strong’s) by the revelation. And, likewise, he is there to rejoice with us. But the ultimate truth that must guide all that we do is his will. That is how we can truly be happy, by walking in the freedom and peace that are only found in surrender to him.
Oh, my friend, I feel your pain and add to it my own. I pray that you will take the words I offer as wisdom and truth. Not from one who knows it all. Not from one who will write you off as “young.” But from one who suffers the same doubts and struggles in the same ways, yet has found the Father faithful in the many years I have fought this good fight.
‘Tis so sweet to trust in Jesus, Just to take Him at His word,
Just to rest upon His promise, Just to know, “Thus saith the Lord.”
Jesus, Jesus, how I trust Him! How I’ve proved Him o’er and o’er!
Jesus, Jesus, precious Jesus! O for grace to trust Him more!
(“’Tis So Sweet to Trust in Jesus,” Louisa M. R. Stead)