By: Steve Wilmot
There are some crazy ideas floating around out there. Maybe you’ve heard the one about Coke. The story goes that if you put a tooth in a can of Coke the tooth will dissolve overnight. Not true.
If you doubt me, grab a pair of pliers, pull a tooth, and put it in a can of Coke tonight. Let me know if it dissolves. (I’m not going to sit by phone if that’s okay with you.)
Then there’s the one about sewer gators in New York City. Supposedly some people who lived in Florida moved to New York City and brought along their baby pet alligators.
Once in New York, the gators began to be a problem, so the Floridians flushed them down the toilet. Over the years, the gators grew into monster gators roaming the sewers of NYC.
Neither one of these stories is true, yet people continue to believe they’re true even though there is no supporting evidence.
These kinds of crazy stories are not limited to the secular world. There are crazy spiritual stories, too. There’s the one that goes, “Cleanliness is next to godliness.”
Sorry, moms, but that’s nowhere in the Bible. You can still tell your kids that to get them to take a bath if you want. Just don’t say it comes from the Bible.
And there’s the one that states, “God helps those who help themselves.” Not in the Bible either. In fact, the opposite is really the truth. God helps those who can’t help themselves.
But there is another crazy idea that I think is one of the most dangerous, and yet, one of the most believed statements in the church today. People talk about it a lot. Hundreds of books are written on this premise. You will hear it repeatedly because it is a message that feels good.
Here it is: God wants you happy. Sorry, friend, but you won’t find that anywhere in the Bible. In fact, there are lots of Scripture that says just the opposite. “In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life will be persecuted” (2 Timothy 3.12). “In this world you will have trouble” (John 16.33). “Consider it pure joy whenever you face trials of many kinds” (James 1.2).
Now don’t misunderstand. I’m not suggesting God wants you sad and miserable and habitually unhappy.
God is not a killjoy who wants to take everything fun away from you. He has good things stored up for you. He wants you to enjoy life. But there is a danger to the “happy quest” if we start seeking it at any cost instead of seeking God.
This crazy idea is very seductive. It tells us happiness means we’ll always enjoy good health. Happiness is never being in want. Happiness means everything will go your way.
The truth is, sometimes stories don’t have happy endings. We know that and yet the message that God wants me happy feels so good and so right. So, we get sucked in.
Paul warned against philosophies like this in 2 Timothy 4:3-4. For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths.
I would love to tell you God wants you happy. If you become a Christian, you won’t have any more problems. You’ll never be sick or in need. Everyone will like you and everything will always work out because, after all, God wants you happy.
The problem with this view of life is we reduce God to little more than a vending machine. We say a little prayer, press the button choosing what we want, and we expect God to deliver.
And if what we pray for doesn’t come out the slot, we blame God because there’s something wrong if God wants me happy and I’m not.
Right here lies the danger of this subtle, seductive idea that God wants you happy. It’s one of those three-part logic equations: God wants me happy, I’m not happy, therefore God failed me because he didn’t do what would make me happy.
Or maybe God is not the good, loving God I thought he was. Maybe he’s stingy and vengeful instead. Or maybe there’s something wrong with my relationship with God. Maybe I’ve ticked him off and disappointed him.
If he wants me happy and I’m not, maybe I’ve done something that has caused God to not love and accept me anymore and that’s why bad things are happening to me or around me.
So, as much as everyone wants to believe, “God wants me happy,” it’s just not true. The exciting truth is that God has something better — much better — for us than happiness. We’ll look at that over the next few weeks. Stay tuned.
Steve Wilmot is a former Edgerton, Ohio area pastor who now seeks “to still bear fruit in old age” through writing. He is the author of seven books designed to assist believers to make steady progress on their spiritual journey.