I’m gonna say something that might make you uncomfortable: God wants us to be happy. No, this isn’t a quote from Joel Osteen. (Or maybe it is, but I certainly wouldn’t know.) It’s biblical. God not only wants us to be happy, he demands it. The Bible is filled with directives to delight, rejoice, and be glad. They’re what I call the happy commandments. Let’s look at just two of them.
“Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice” (Philippians 4:4)
Oh boy, this is one of my favorite commandments. This I can handle. Loving our enemies? Hard to do. Humbling ourselves? Hard to do. But rejoicing in our good, faithful, loving Creator? Yes, please! Charles Spurgeon said,
“What a gracious God we serve, who makes delight to be a duty, and who commands us to rejoice! Should we not at once be obedient to such a command as this? It is intended that we should be happy. That is the meaning of the precept, that we should be cheerful; more than that, that we should be thankful; more than that, that we should rejoice.”
But how do we obey a command to be happy? Like anything else, it takes a little practice. It requires reading God’s Word, praying, and meeting with our fellow saints to honor God in corporate worship — the same “spiritual disciplines” we’ve heard about a hundred times. Practicing the things that REMIND us of the Lord will cause us to REJOICE in him.
“Rejoice with those who rejoice” (Romans 12:15)
Of course, that’s only half the command, but we’ll talk more about the second half in good time. This one is great because it gives us a reason to make other people’s joy our own. But once again, how do we obey such a command? I’ve learned two practical ways to do this over the years.
The first is to say, “I’m happy for you.” Out loud. While smiling. And really mean it. When someone gets promoted or engaged or wins a vacation to Hawaii, tell them you’re happy for them. Even better, thank God for those things. “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights” (James 1:17). Blessings are blessings, whether or not they’re yours. So take time in prayer to thank God for other people’s gifts. You’ll find there’s a lot to be happy for.
The second trick is to ask WHY people rejoice and WHERE people rejoice, and then go there! Get out of the house and celebrate things that don’t revolve around you: weddings, birthdays, baby showers, retirements, baptisms, and maybe even anniversaries. (Just make sure you don’t drop in at the wrong time!) And if you can’t be there in person, send cards or text messages. Or if you’re REALLY pressed for time, click “Like” on Facebook — let them know you’re rejoicing right alongside them in the laziest way possible.
God commands us to delight in him and our fellow man, just as he commands us to love him and our fellow man (Matthew 22:38-39). I’m with Spurgeon on this one: we shouldn’t delay in obeying the happy commandments. We need to start taking happiness as seriously as God does.