The Christian Meaning of Happiness–Clap Along!
Pharrell Williams’ song “Happy” has been played out on my ITunes list to ad nauseum. This is where I admit it was I who over-played it in my car, despite being a mother to two teenagers who often asked me to not play it again. There was something about that song that made me happy but it wasn’t just because of the upbeat lyrics. There is a line in the song that says, “Clap along if you know what happiness means to you.” Every time I came to that line I wanted to shout, “Hallelujah!”
Maybe, it was my Pentecostal upbringing that sparked my spiritual outburst with that lyric. But as a Christian I am beyond grateful for truly understanding what happiness means to me. I can clap along because I know the source of my happiness.
I have been reflecting on this word happiness for a couple of weeks in light of the recent Victoria Osteen viral video that surfaced on social media. She made the following remarks:
“I just want to encourage every one of us to realize that when we obey God, we’re not doing it for God — I mean, that’s one way to look at it — we’re doing it for ourselves, because God takes pleasure when we’re happy. That the thing that gives Him the greatest joy. So, I want you to know this morning: Just do good for your own self. Do good because God wants you to be happy. When you come to church, when you worship Him, you’re not doing it for God really. You’re doing it for yourself, because that’s what makes God happy. Amen?”
I am not a fan of Joel and Victoria Osteen’s ministry. I believe their teachings don’t take in the whole counsel of scripture but I think her remarks are best summed up by another Barbwire writer’s point of view. Matt Moore writes, “the problem is that people like Victoria take this truth and slant it, ever so subtly, away from the God-centered-happiness that the Bible prescribes and toward a me-centered-happiness that the Bible condemns. God’s greatest pleasure is not in our happiness (although He does desire that), but in His own glory. He wants His glory to be the fuel that our joy-appetites feed on. He wants His presence to be the longing of our souls. God wants us to be happy in Him.”
In other words, “Hallelujah” to my God who gives me joy that fuels the happiness I can clap about. Happiness doesn’t come from me because it is not about me. I am a follower of Christ but my faith is not about being happy or even pursuing happiness. That is trivial and meaningless. Our whole culture is wrapped up in the trivial and self-centered happiness that is supposed to feed our souls. The joy of my salvation in Christ, who lives in me, is my happiness. It’s all I need. This is why I can clap along with self-assurance and belt out the lyrics of just what happiness means to me despite my life circumstances.
Author Eric Metaxas recently commented about the pursuit of happiness in a panel discussion at the 2014 American Enterprise Institute’s Evangelical Leadership Summit. He stated, “I want to be the skunk of the garden party (referring to the panel discussion) and say that I think the whole idea of happiness is stupid…The whole idea of chasing happiness seems fundamentally wrong to me…not just wrong but shallow. We cannot be talking about happiness… We long for meaning and we know that even if I am suffering I can have joy in my suffering but not happiness.”
We live in a broken, sinful world. Our society and the culture we live in try to sell us happiness with tangible things or pleasures that only bring us temporary thrills. But joy that only Christ can bring is what defines happiness for a Christian. Apostle Peter calls this type of joy “inexpressible and glorious.” (1 Peter 1:8) It’s a joy that allows me to shout and clap about it even though it is difficult to express in words. It’s the source of why I worship God and it is what defines my faith.
Maybe it’s a bit unorthodox to take a secular song by Pharrell and make it about some spiritual truth. But the song is reminder that it is the unspeakable joy that God alone gives to me that truly is the source of my happiness.
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