My daughter is obsessed with putting things in her mouth. Electric plug ins, loose change that I managed to overlook, the butterfly that landed near her, dirt on the ground, even my toes if I’m not paying attention. Due to her love of eating things that are not food, I spend a lot of time fishing things out of her mouth and quickly moving them out of her reach to protect her. Of course, this makes her furious. There is nothing she wants more in that moment than to suck on a battery, and I am the one thing preventing that from happening. All of this to say, I deeply love my daughter and I want her to be happy, but my main concern is not always her happiness, especially when it comes to her safety.
I believe the very same is true of God. So does God want us to be happy? I would argue that yes, He intends for us to live a life free of suffering and pain (Revelation 21:4) but His desire is for us to find that happiness in things that are not fleeting. His desire is for our happiness to be in Him and eternal glory, rather than our surrounding circumstances. With this kind of happiness, we can face the storms of life while still being joyful.
Does this mean that it is wrong to take pleasure in the temporary things of this world? I do not believe so. There are so many beautiful things on Earth that God has created simply for our pleasure. There is no reason that a sunset needs to be beautiful, the only benefit of its beauty is our pleasure. So although a sunset is a temporary pleasure of this Earth, our God created it for us to enjoy. There are so many wonderful pleasures like this that He gives us. Pleasures like the sweet taste of chocolate, the beauty in flowers, the enjoyment in humanities ability to be creative. It is okay to find happiness in these fleeting joys, it is not okay to find hope in them.
Several years ago, I was notorious for saying “God doesn’t care if we are happy.” My well intentioned statement (although false) would have been better phrased as “God doesn’t care if we are comfortable.” His primary focus for your life is not to provide you with everything your heart desires, but to change the desires of your heart.
If I had to imagine my perfect life right now, my husband and I would already own a house, we would be financially comfortable and successful in our stable careers. However when I spend more time in my Bible, more time praying, something amazing happens. Those desires are still there, but I find myself rejoicing in the things God has called my family to do more than my own dreams of financial success. Being called to the ministry in Southern California means we may be sacrificing our hopes of owning our own home. Some days this is a harder thing to process than others, but I always find so much fulfillment and joy in what His plan is for my life. It’s always better and more fulfilling than what my plan was.
If you were to ask my husband to answer this same question, he would share with you how he always imagined becoming principle of an elementary school, maybe even on the school board. He imagined living an hour at most from his entire family, being able to leave our children with his parents for a night once a week for a date night just us two. He would explain that his family gathered often for big parties, sometimes once a month or more, and he expected to be a part of those gatherings for the rest of his life. When my husband imagined his perfect life, he would think back to how his bedroom as an infant was the bedroom he lived in up until just two months before we got married. He is not a traveler, he does not take risks, not on his own desires. But with God’s call on our hearts we are here, thousands of miles from home.
If it wasn’t for His call, we would be missing out on the beautiful Southern California weather, and the incredible group of friends we’ve made since we moved here. Since God called us to give up everything and move across the country, I’ve grown closer to Him and to my husband than I ever would have otherwise. I have felt deep happiness, and deep sorrow, but in the last year, I have definitely learned what it means to be joyful in all circumstances. I have been pushed outside of my comfort zone again and again by what the Lord has asked of me and my family, but I am joyful, and this is the happiness He desires for me. This is the happiness He desires for all of us.