09 February 2012

A Thought

I've been hammering home at St. Paul's of late:  the Lord doesn't want you to be happy; He wants you to be holy.  "For this is the will of God, your sanctification."  Last night Judy asked:  does He want us to be both?  I thought about it and replied:  He wants us to be holy so that we may be truly blessed; and blessedness is even better than happiness.  I'd stand by that:  blessedness doesn't ride on the ups and downs of our emotions.  It rises above them.  And since God often uses adversity and trials to give us growth in holiness (yes, holiness is given you whole and entire in your Baptism, but I refer to growing up into the salvation that is yours), there are times of sadness that come our way on this path toward the fuller inner appropriation of that holiness which results in blessedness.  Anywho, the big point is that our deceitful hearts way too often tell us that "God wants us to be happy" and take that to mean:  "God can't mean that I shouldn't engage in this sin - because I am finding happiness in doing so!"  Wrong.  Just wrong.


Rev. Eric J Brown said...

One of the things that I like to point out is that "joy" isn't the same as "happiness". Happiness tends to be internal, reflexive and reflective - am I happy? Joy is outward - joy is what you have when you see that wondrous thing which has happened out side of you.

Which is why joy is a fruit of the Spirit and why no one can take our joy from us, for no one can change the fact that Christ has died and risen for us... this is true however sad or unhappy events in this fallen world may be.

William Gleason said...

Sorrow is better than laughter,
For when a face is sad a heart may be happy. Ecclesiastes 7:3 (NASB)

Paul said...

Thanks for wrestling with this whole area that we evangelical-catholic Christians have traditionally had a very hard time talking about. Whenever, by God's grace, I am able to stop focusing on myself, that is when "happiness" and a sense of well-being bubbles up.

Chris Jones said...

holiness is given you whole and entire in your Baptism


The Holy Spirit Himself is given "whole and entire" in baptism; but personal holiness is the fruit of lifelong struggle.

... the kingdom of heaven suffereth violence, and the violent take it by force. (Mt 11.12)

Unknown said...

Of course it’s wrong, but how long do we need to beat this horse until we know it’s dead. Those who say this are not members of God’s Kingdom, unless they are Lutherans who have sinned knowingly, and having been taught that they have now lost faith and the Holy Spirit, this is their only way out.

I notice that in a number of contemporary translations, where the King James version reads “happy”, it is now “blessed”. Anything, just not to be happy!

How can we separate Joy from Happiness? Blessedness does not ride up and down with our emotions when it is used in the sense of God conveying to us the status of being “blessed”. The joy, or happiness, which we feel as a result does ride up and down with our emotions. That is because we are human. Does that mean it is not sinful? Surprise! We are sinners.

From Fr. Schmeemann’s diary: “25 September 1980, H.L.Mencken: definition of Puritanism,’a haunting fear that someone somewhere may be happy...’” About 4 years earlier, he wrote, “And for some reason, “religious” people are always suspicious of joy. The first, the most important, the source of everything is, “Let my soul rejoice in the Lord …’ The fear of sin does not prevent one from sinning. Joy in the Lord does.” Of course the dear Father didn’t know that joy and happiness are two different things.

The fundamental problem here is in the sentence “God wants us to be …,” in the sense that God expects certain things from us as opposed to this being His will. When we finally understand that God expects nothing from us, we will at last understand the Gospel. “For freedom Christ has set you free!” Please, please, do not ask me, “Shall we sin so that grace might abound?” 2 Cor. 5, “17 So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new! 18 All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation; 19 that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting the message of reconciliation to us.”

It is our Heavenly Father’s will that we be happy and joyful, and He will see to it that we will be. If we are imperfectly happy or joyful now, He forgives us. When He chastens those whom He loves; that is, all of us, He does not do that to diminish our joy or to make us unhappy, but so that we would “leap for joy.”

Peace, Joy and Happiness!
George A. Marquart

thatonelutheran said...

I think a better way to look at this quote, "holiness is given you whole and entire in your Baptism," might not be a personal holiness that we achieve by our efforts and struggles. I think Rev. Weedon would probably see it just as he said, "holiness is GIVEN." Not earned or produced by our struggles, but given us in Christ. When Christ puts His name on us in Baptism, we become His child and an heir of His kingdom because of His holiness, not our own. We simply can never achieve a perfect holiness ourselves in this life. But we are given a perfect holiness, Christ's holiness, won for us on the cross and given through Baptism. Therefore, when God looks at us, He does not really see us because of Jesus' name on our foreheads. (That is fortunate, because we have all "sinned, and fall short of the glory of God." If God saw us, all He would see is filth.) But He sees Christ, and the glorious "robe of righteousness" covering us, not of our own, but of Christ.

Rebekah said...

Thanks. Yes.

Pastor Peters said...

A favorite movie line...

I am not happy... but I am not unhappy about that...

Go for it Will!

William Weedon said...


See Schmemann:

"And the holiness of the Church is not our holiness, but Christ's, who loved the Church and gave Himself for her 'that He might sanctify her...that she might be holy and without blemish' (Eph 5:25-27). Likewise the holiness of the saints as well is but the revelation and the realization of that sanctification, that holiness that each of us received on the day of baptism, and in which we are called to increase. But we could not grow in it, if we did not already possess it as a gift of God, as his presence in us through the Holy Spirit." (Schmemann, Eucharist, pp. 23, 24)

William Weedon said...


Of course, the odd thing is that anyone who knows me knows that I tend to be "a rather unquenchable hobbit" - I totally get Pippin. I'm "up" almost all the time - usually quite happy and excited about stuff that others find, well, less than inspiring of happines. My point is CERTAINLY not that God delights in sadness. No - as Luther says, the DEVIL is a sad spirit. The Spirit of God is the Spirit of JOY. But joy isn't the same as happiness manifestly, for joy can exist in a broken heart with tears streaming down the eyes. My point was rather what God's goal for lives is - and that is holiness. We will find that that ends up being the utter fullness of joy, of love, of peace, of every fruit of the Holy Spirit.

jgernander said...

Surprised By Joy, and all that.

Jerry G.

Dcn Latif Haki Gaba SSP said...

Chris said: The Holy Spirit Himself is given "whole and entire" in baptism; but personal holiness is the fruit of lifelong struggle.

Chris: Where the Holy Spirit is given, He gives not a portion of Himself, but His all, and when a man receives that gift, such as happens in Holy Baptism, he thereby possesses the utter holiness that is the life of the Triune God. Our life of sin is an ongoing struggle precisely against the pure grace and life of our Baptism. And so Absolution (another instance of the Spirit's self-giving to us) is a returning precisely to the promise of Baptism. Likewise, I might add, when a man receives our Lord Jesus in the Eucharist, he receives not a little more of Jesus, but all of Him, wih all that this gift brings with it, viz., life in its sanctified fullness and salvation in Him. None of which is to imply that we are not in an ongoing struggle, indeed warfare, in this life, for our growth to the full realization of what we already possess in Christ.

Anonymous said...

Sorry a little bit late about this, but I'd like to take exception. I think that the 9th and 10th commandments require, among other things, happiness. I'm not sure what the distinction is between happiness and joy, but I'm suspicious that such distinctions are a little academic and inventive. If we have a moral obligation to be joyful (and we do), then how is that different than having a moral obligation to be happy?

And by the way, the chief victim of our grumpy unhappiness is not only ourselves, but more important, our neighbor. That poor guy is the one who has to put up with my sour attitude.

Another thing: don't you think saying 'the Lord doesn't want you to be happy; He wants you to be holy' is something akin to saying 'the Lord doesn't want you to be chaste; He wants you to be holy?' They don't seem to be exclusive.