By Beth Demme
In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus preached: “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.” (Matthew 5:8, NRSV) This is also translated, “Happy are the pure in heart, for they will see God.”
I like being happy, feeling happy.
I’m not a student of New Testament Greek, but I can tell you what the commentaries say about using the word “happy” here. They say it’s right. The Greek word used here is macarios which means happy, not eulogeō which means blessed. Also, this verse is part of the Beatitudes and beatus is the Latin word for happy (benedico is the word for blessing).
In other words, Matthew 5:8 says there’s a connection between my happiness and the condition of my heart.
In a way, happiness is a heart condition.
Psalm 51 was part of the weekly liturgy I experienced growing up in the ELCA: “Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me. Cast me not away from your presence, and take not your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation and uphold me with your free spirit.” (Psalm 51:10-12)
If I remember correctly, we sang this after the offering plates had been passed around. As the ushers walked to the front of the church to present our financial gifts, the congregation would stand and sing this song together. We offered our hearts—our whole selves—while asking God to give us joy and uphold us.
When I offer my heart to God, I’m greeted with the wonders of His love.
The song Joy to the World starts out, “Joy to the world! The Lord is come. Let earth receive her King. Let every heart prepare Him room…” It ends with, “He rules the world with truth and grace and makes the nations prove the glories of His righteousness. And the wonders of His love, Oh the wonders of His love.”
I think Isaac Watts (who wrote Joy to the World) got it right. I think there is a connection between having a heart that has prepared God room and receiving the wonders of His love.
Still, part of me wonders if God cares about my happiness.
On the one hand, the happiness of one human being seems trivial. On the other hand, I’ve experienced “the wonders of His love” and that is anything but trivial.
This seemingly simple question (“Does God want me to be happy?”) delves into very deep theological waters. Like most questions from deep theological waters, there is no right answer.
Does God want me to be happy?
I don’t believe God wants me to indulge in everything that promises a moment of fleeting happiness (like eating a half-dozen hot Krispy Kreme doughnuts … oh my word that sounds good).
Also, as much as I love to shop, I don’t believe in the prosperity gospel (suggesting that God gives wealth and material goods to those He deems faithful/lovable).
Fleeting happiness isn’t really happiness at all, is it?
True joy is not circumstantial or temporal. The deepest joy I’ve experienced in my life has come from being in a relationship with God.
I believe that God is a force greater than myself. I believe that God loves me. (John 3:16) I believe God wants me to have a full life, meaning a life that is governed by the principles of love, not of fear. (John 3:17, 10:10. 1 John 4:18)
Oh the wonders of His love,
The wonders of His love,
The wonders, wonders, of His love.
I believe God wants me to be happy, even joyful. That is a wonder, isn’t it?
Do you think God wants you to be happy? Why or why not? Have you experienced joy in your relationship with God? Do you think life’s circumstances keep you from knowing joy? Tell me about it in the comments, in an e-mail, or on Facebook. I’m also on Twitter and would love to connect with you there.
More like this from Beth:
A similar version of this post appeared here in January 2016.