In a certain context, I really don't like that word. It's such a shallow and ephemeral concept, that to wish for happiness more than anything else seems futile. I know it sounds pessimistic of me, but I feel that as a Christian, to pray first and foremost for happiness is wrong. God doesn't guarantee happiness, it is written multiple times in His word that we will suffer in this world if we choose to follow Christ. So when people come to the conclusion that happiness is a sign of God's blessings, I have a problem with it. It implies that the blessings of a church, family, or person can be counted in terms of happiness; that if a church isn't "happy," God is not working in that church; that if a family isn't happy, God isn't blessing that family; that if I'm not happy, God must NOT be in my life.
Someone once pointed out to me that every time a Christian group goes on a trip, the first thing we pray for is "safety." But why is safety the first thing we pray for? If anything, shouldn't we pray that God does whatever it takes to draw us nearer to Him? If we're going on a retreat, we would hope that God takes us there safely so that we can receive whatever blessings He has planned for at the retreat, but consider this: what if, just what if, the best way that we drew nearer to God involved an accident of some kind?
Or here's another example (I heard this illustration once, and unfortunately, I cannot reiterate it for you in the same powerful way I heard it, but here's a paraphrasing): A missionary wants to marry a woman that he loves and believes is someone he can be one with in glorifying God. But he sees that God's plan for him is to do missionary work that puts his life at risk. When he goes to that woman's father, he doesn't tell the father that he will make her happy, or that he will provide for her, or even that he will protect her. Instead, he asks the father these questions: Can you give away your daughter to a man who will take her into danger for the sake of the good news? Will you allow your daughter to marry someone who will put God's will above her safety and happiness? Will you place God's glory before your daughter's life? I think it was a true story, because I remember someone mentioning that the father was able to give her away, and the married couple ended up martyred for the gospel.
I think that if that woman had been me, my parents would not have allowed me to marry a man like that. As much as my mom is devoted to Christ, when it comes to her children, I think that she will put our happiness and safety above our Godly purpose, which is to love Jesus and make Him known.
Even now, as the new year begins, I know that I will face a difficult semester, taking on a lot of things. When I told my mom that I was also going to serve as a leader at our church ministry, she kept trying to convince me that I should only take on the responsibility when I didn't have as much on my plate. I had voiced my worries of how hard it would be, and she replied, "If you know it's going to be hard, why do it?" My answer? I'm half-hoping that it WILL be beyond what I can handle on my own, because I know that my struggles are prime opportunities for me to draw closer to Jesus, to actually NEED Him in my everyday life.
I don't blame my parents for wanting me to be happy and not suffer. But I have to eventually reconcile my intellectual understanding that my happiness is not God's primary will for me with my heart's desire to be happy in the moment, here and now. And just because I know in my head what it should be like, it certainly doesn't mean that the execution comes just as easy. God help me, because I know I can't do it on my own. And as scary as it is, I'm praying that my desire to know and love God, to draw nearer to Him, will be more than my desire to be happy in this life.