Is It Possible To Be Holy Without Happiness?
Some people have said, “God calls us to be holy, not happy.” And there is indeed a stereotype of the dour saint who renounces every worldly pleasure and never lets anyone see a smile on their face.
But there’s another image. That’s one of the smiling saints who are always happy to see you, who cheerfully lend a hand when it’s time to prepare a meal, and who is delighted to join with the friends and strangers, prosperous and poor, to enjoy the feast.
So, which is it? Are holy people required to be happy? Or are they expected to keep their gladness under wraps? If there’s some confusion on the matter, it may derive from our limited idea of happiness.
What Is Happiness?
Some people associate happiness with things are provide immediate pleasure but are neither holy nor good for us. Examples of these are:
- alcohol and drug abuse,
- cleverly putting people down,
- gaining wealth dishonestly.
We’d all agree that the holy person does not go in for this flavor of happiness.
Then there’s the pleasure that is truly among the best of what the world offers. We all appreciate health in ourselves and others, peace and harmony in our community, the laughter of children, and good times with friends and family.
Additionally, there’s the satisfaction of doing a job well and the blessing we experience from helping others. There’s also the joy that comes in those times when we feel strongly in tune with God.
Isn’t that a form of happiness as well?
Some people distinguish between happiness and joy, but the biblical distinction is less clear. The Bible doesn’t refer to adulterers and drunkards as happy.
On the other hand, there are translations of Psalms that say, “Happy is the nation whose God is the Lord,” and “Happy are those who do not follow the advice of the wicked.”
The Case for Happy Holiness
It’s true that good people don’t always feel happy. It’s equally true that there’s a lot in the world that God is unhappy about and that we should be unhappy with too.
Yet, despite what’s in the world, we are called upon to rejoice. “Rejoice in the Lord always,” Paul writes in Philippians.
In Galatians, joy is referred to as one of the fruits of the Spirit. It’s abundantly clear that the holy person should be joyful. Even if they’re not smiling on the surface or visibly happy about whatever they’re dealing with at the moment, a deep-seated joy should inform their lives.
At least sometimes, that joy should burst through and make it clear to everyone that they’re happy.
So, though the holy person needn’t feel happy every moment, they should be fundamentally happy. It’s worth pointing out that holiness must come first.
You can’t become holy by trying to make yourself happy, but if you seek holiness, happiness will follow.
The person pursuing a Godly life doesn’t have to put happiness on a to-do list. It comes with the package.