Does Jesus Want Us Happy?

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For the Live Happy theme, Jennifer Dukes Lee reminds us that Jesus doesn’t despise our happiness. He embraces it. Happiness is not separate from our holiness but an integral part of it. In fact, these are the words of Jesus: “Be of good cheer.” That’s not a nice suggestion; it’s a command.

The bride was moments away from walking down the aisle. The room was a hum of excited whispers and the fanning of wedding programs in front of happy faces. I glanced to my right, and the stained-glass windows on the opposite wall caught my eye.

The late-afternoon sunlight slanted in perfectly, giving the colorful scenes a glowing aura. As the first notes of Canon in D filled the sanctuary, I looked from window to window. What I saw startled me. In every scene, Jesus wore a melancholy or stern expression. The stained-glass Jesus looked like he regretted his decision to visit earth.

In one image, his knuckles rapped against a wooden door. He wore the countenance of a door-to-door vacuum salesman—worn out from a long day of work—rather than someone who loved the people on the inside of the house.

Meanwhile, here we were, in his house, gathered in his name. And most of us wore a very different kind of expression—one of delight and pleasure.

Just then, the bride began her walk down the aisle escorted by her dad. We all rose to our feet. After they reached the front of the church, the pastor asked us to bow our heads in prayer.

But instead of praying to a stern Jesus, the pastor prayed to a joyful one. How do I know? Because the pastor prayed these words: “Just as you gladdened the wedding at Cana in Galilee … bring your joy to this wedding.”

The words got caught in my heart. Jesus had “gladdened a wedding.” Gladdened! He didn’t come to critique the food or shame the decorator or stand guard at the door like a bouncer. He gladdened it!

Does Jesus Want Us Happy?

No one would disagree that Jesus was a holy person. But what if he was also a happy person? I believe he was, and I would assert that he wants the same for us: happiness.

Some of you aren’t so sure about that. We’ve been taught: “God cares more about our holiness than our happiness.”

But Scripture suggests that Jesus actually cares about them both. Happiness is not separate from our holiness but an integral part of it.

In fact, these are the words of Jesus: “Be of good cheer.” That’s not a nice suggestion; it’s a command.

The formidable biblical scholar Matthew Henry said it like this centuries ago: “Those only are happy, truly happy, that are holy, truly holy.”

We’ve become suspect of happiness for good reason. At the heart of our distrust is the fact that people look for happiness in the wrong places. As Christians, we view happiness as less durable and trustworthy than its cousin “joy.” True: joy and happiness aren’t exactly the same. But that doesn’t mean they don’t go together.

Happiness isn’t unholy. It’s just misunderstood.

Was Jesus Happy?

The Scriptures show us a suffering Jesus. But they also reveal a happy Jesus.

Jesus’ first miracle wasn’t at a church. It was at a party. Remember the wedding that he gladdened? The wine had run out, so he turned water into wine. Jesus enjoyed the company of friends, the dinner table, the breaking of bread. We see Jesus, surrounded by children when he says, “Let the children come to me.” What child would ever draw near to a pinch-faced, unhappy Jesus?

Here’s the good news for us: Jesus doesn’t despise your happiness. He embraces it. He wants to be invited into your sorrows and your hurts. But he also wants to be invited to your party.

What if we began to imagine Jesus with us when we are enjoying what we enjoy?

That night at the wedding dance, we feasted on roast beef. We savored the frosting on the cake. We danced the Electric Slide and flapped our arms to the Chicken Dance. A group of us cried happy tears when the father of the bride asked his daughter for a dance. We were set below the twinkling lights, amidst the song, among the happy people of God, for the glory of a happy God.

And I am sure of it: Jesus wasn’t outside the door, knocking. He was with us—happily with us. He had entered in and gladdened us. I pictured him with a smile.