by Jennifer Dukes Lee
“Be happy about it! Be very glad! For a great reward awaits you in heaven.” –Matthew 5:12
Two years ago, I never would have spoken this sentence aloud: “I want to be happy.” I would have thought it, and secretly, I would have wanted happiness. But I would have been scared to admit it. I would have told you that I wanted joy instead. I would have told you that God cared more about my holiness.
For most of my life, I’ve been a happy person. But somewhere along the way, I had lost the fullness of my happiness. During those times of unhappiness, my great comfort came in believing that God didn’t care about happiness anyway. I figured, If I can’t be happy, I’m still good with God. My holiness, then, became an excuse to stop seeking happiness.
This is a tragic error of Christians everywhere. So many of us wrongly believe that we have to pick one or the other: happiness or Jesus. There is a third option: happy holiness.
Our inner desire for happiness isn’t a sin. It’s a desire planted in us by God. Scripture doesn’t pit holiness against happiness. In fact, Jesus gave us a beautiful picture of true happiness when he delivered the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5–7). When he delivered that sermon, the first word out of his mouth was happy: “Happy are those who . . .”
The word for “happy” in Scripture is the Greek makarios. Some translations use the English word “blessed” whenever makarios appears in the New Testament. But other translators—aware that makarios comes from the word makar (which means “happy” or “blessed”)—translate the word to “happiness” instead.
When we desire happiness, we aren’t heretics. In important ways, we are seeking after God’s own heart.
Want to find out more? Join Jennifer Dukes Lee, author of The Happiness Dare, in exploring what Scripture has to say by reflecting on these five devotional readings.