Should Christians Be Happy All the Time?

IMG_7630 despair_smw

Three years ago, I had published a blog post that was inspired by a song taught to children in church, as well as an article by Russell Moore entitled Why Facebook (and Your Church) Might Be Making You Sad.  I had been considering posting it again, and although I could be wrong, I think the Holy Spirit gave me a nudge to go ahead and do so.

The song is high energy and fun to sing because of hand motions and increasing speed, but it hit me three years ago that it can also be very confusing and deceiving.  Why?  Well it goes like this:

I’m inright, outright, upright, downright happy all the time.
I’m inright, outright, upright downright happy all the time.
Since Jesus Christ came in and cleansed my heart from sin,
I’m inright, outright, upright, downright happy all the time.

Are Christians happy all the time?

When a little girl in a preschool class heard she would be singing the song, she cried out, “But I’m not happy all the time!”

Out of the mouth of babes.

Are Christians happy all the time?  Should we be?  We might try to pretend to be, but no, we’re not.  We have the same struggles as everyone else.  I think there are a few reasons we might put on a façade:  1) It makes us feel more religious/spiritual, 2) We have a sincere desire to glorify God, showing He is real and trustworthy, and we wrongly believe being happy all the time is most glorifying to God.  But can we truly reflect what’s real, if we ourselves are not?  Is that glorifying to God?

One of the things Russell Moore said in the article mentioned above is, “By not speaking, where the Bible speaks, to the full range of human emotion—including loneliness, guilt, desolation, anger, fear, desperation—we only leave our people there, wondering why they just can’t be “Christian” enough to smile through it all.”

Children, teenagers and even adults could be left asking themselves, “What’s wrong with me?  Why am I not happy all the time?”  Not only that, but they can learn to not trust the Bible or church, because what they’ve been taught either doesn’t square up with real life or they later realize they were led to believe something that isn’t true.  Even Jesus said, “In the world you will have tribulation, but take heart, for I have overcome the world.”  (John 16:33)

I mean no disrespect to anyone who has taught or still teaches the song or songs like it, because no one would knowingly seek to confuse or deceive children.  Sometimes we do things because it’s what we ourselves were taught or because it’s what has always been done.  But I think when children speak or react, we ought to take note and consider if perhaps changes need to be made in the way we present things.

Edited on February 24, 2014 @ 20:48 to add:  I should have said and need to add that the preachers and teachers of the church I attend do speak to the range of emotions found in the Bible, so this post is not an indictment of them. The purpose of the post is to encourage review and consideration of things we’ve always done and things that may sound good but may not be true.

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About Rene Yoshi

Just a transplanted Okinawan-French Southern girl with a wee bit o' Irish, sharing photography and what I'm learning about spiritual things, including putting off legalism and religious traditions, and embracing God's matchless love, tender mercy, and amazing grace! View all posts by Rene Yoshi

26 responses to “Should Christians Be Happy All the Time?

  • Randell Bell

    Very good and well put – but the song doesnt seem to match up with the scriptures does it. Jesus was aquainted with sorrow and our sorrow – Isa. 53:3 He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief: and we hid as it were our faces from him; he was despised, and we esteemed him not.
    4 Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted.
    5 But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed.

  • Scott

    Whoa! Great topic and one usually misunderstood by immature Christians. Have you ever had someone tell you, “I’m too blessed to be stressed”…or some such ridiculous blather? Let’s take a look at some folks who have impeccable credentials: David, Paul and, the Lord Jesus Christ.
    David: Try reading Psalm 102 and, with a straight face, say he wasn’t stressed to the max!
    Paul: In 2 Corinthians 1:8 the great apostle claimed he, and those with him, had DESPAIRED EVEN OF LIFE!! Hmmm..Paul despaired? And further, in Chapter 6 he gives a litany of BAD THINGS that happened. He even went so far as to point out that tragedy and sorrow come into our lives so we can later help those going thru the same distress. Do you think Paul enjoyed his thorn in the flesh? He agonized over it. But God’s grace is sufficient.
    Jesus Christ: Can anyone tell me just what was happening in the Garden of Gethsemane? I think it safe to say the Lord Jesus was going thru some awesome hard time. Further, I would hope these well-intentioned but poorly taught Christians who see the word thru syrupy eyes would pay attention to what the Lord Jesus Christ Himself stated in John 16? In this world we WILL HAVE TRIBULATION! We are in enemy territory and he is coming after us!
    We will not escape this vale of sorrow and hurt and tears until we are face to face with our Savior in Heaven. Until then, we deal with bad things knowing our Heavenly Father has a purpose and we trust Him.
    And no more sweet syrup, please?

    • Rene Yoshi

      True. Interestingly, another translation of the word for blessed is happy, so if by happy we mean blessed, then spiritually speaking, we are blessed despite circumstances. Thank you, Scott, for including more examples of godly men who were not happy all the time. 🙂

  • Rene Yoshi

    I should have said and need to add that the preachers and teachers of the church I attend do speak to the range of emotions found in the Bible, so this post is not an indictment of them. The purpose of the post is to encourage review and consideration of things we’ve always done and things that may sound good but may not be true.

  • Susan Irene Fox

    Wonderful and truthful post, Rene. We must reveal to new believers especially that lives will continue to be filled with a range of emotion, and trouble will still exist – it is our perspective that changes because of our inheritance and the abiding love, mercy and grace that we have in Christ.

  • Jason B. Ladd

    This is an important point that all believers need to understand: Christianity is not about a guarantee of happiness; it is about the pursuit of holiness. In doing so, the Christian can find joy even in suffering. The joy of knowing Christ can be lived out continuously. Happiness is a transient emotion that can come and go with the wind.

  • scblair

    Good thoughts. I, like many others, don’t see happiness as the end goal of faith. It can’t be. But far too often I think that’s what people look for. While you find the exhortation to “rejoice in the Lord always” I feel that this is a rejoicing that doesn’t eliminate sorrow but happens alongside it. I wouldn’t call that happiness but I would call it hope.

    • Rene Yoshi

      Yes! I agree. This generation, especially in the U.S. seeks happiness and fulfillment above all else, generally speaking, of course. Your comment reminds me of something else we sometimes do when sharing the Gospel—putting the emphasis on ‘asking Jesus into our hearts’ or on going to heaven, as if going to heaven and escaping hell is itself the end goal of faith. Thank you, scblair! 😀

  • Jennifer

    I have never felt like “liking” every single thing on a post’s comment thread, until now! What a great read!

    I have found so many things in “service programming” that just doesn’t quite jive. Songs like you mention aren’t just in the kids’ services. I’m glad you noticed it and decided to start a discussion here. It’s a good one!

  • heavenlyraindrops

    Thank you so much, Rene. I agree wholeheartedly! During the many times that I have faced difficulties in this life, such as with prolonged illness or parenting issues, I have sometimes felt scorn from fellow believers when I did not just learn to ‘smile through it all.’ Yet, God asks that we use the emotions He gave us, ‘to rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep’…. I see it as being real with Him and others. Besides, superficial happiness does not compare with an inner joy of knowing Christ, the depths of which is most often only discovered during suffering. BTW–love the photo. Been in that position, on the floor, a time or two or three… Knowing Christ was there with me…that was something to smile about! Blessings

    • Rene Yoshi

      Yes, I have experienced and know of others who have experienced a lack of compassion or understanding within the church, too. I know that people, including myself, don’t always know what to do or say when someone is suffering, but ignoring or making light of the problem does not mirror the love of Christ. And yes, the depths of the inner joy of knowing Christ is, indeed, often discovered during suffering when we turn to Him for help and comfort. Thank you, Sue, for sharing your experiences and insight! 😀

  • Heartfelt Reflections

    Yes, this world will offer us lots and lots of trouble, won’t it? So thankful that Christianity is not a mask to cover problems, but rather a relationship with The One who can help us deal with them as we journey through sanctification. And quite a journey it is! Not always a “happy” one, but joyful? Yes! God bless you!

  • Unshakable Hope

    Such a great post, Rene!
    If happiness is your goal, I think you’re setting yourself up to be miserable. Happiness is an emotion that’s tied to our circumstances. I really think believers in China, North Korea and Iran would be shocked that we’re even debating this subject 🙂

    • Rene Yoshi

      I think you’re right about China, North Korea and Iran, as well as other countries in which Christians face persecution. Joy despite circumstances? Yes. Happiness? Not necessarily. Thank you, Bill! 😀

      • Unshakable Hope

        I agree! It’s not a contradiction to say that I have inner joy, even when I’m not necessarily “happy.” This is so clear when I read Psalms; David repeatedly would use the joy of his spirit to lift him up when he wasn’t happy in his soul.

      • Rene Yoshi

        Yes, I really appreciate how David, even if the midst of intense struggle, looked to the Lord’s hand, His promises, and future hope. Thank you, Bill! 😀

  • Heather Mertens @ 40YearWanderer

    Profound and poignant to the world today… Mostly the western world. I am planning a series of articles titled “Shopping for…” And the first is going to be “Shopping for a Gospel”. I intentionally chose the article “a” instead of “the”‘ for the same premise as your article here: Christians all too often want a gospel truth that fits their emotions and desires and happiness instead of true joy that resides in all emotions if one has a deeply meaningful relationship with The Lord.

    Love your article. Your heart.

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