Delighted by Grace: Finding joy in God’s provision
“God is more concerned about our holiness than our happiness.”
I heard this phrase growing up and never questioned it. Until recently.
Is it true? At first glance, it seems so. The faithful in the Bible never had easy lives. And the pattern holds today – if you’re going to follow Christ, there’s a cross to be shouldered.
But as I thought about the implications, I began to wonder.
I think, at best, the phrase could be worded better. “God is more concerned about our holiness than our comfort.” This is unquestionably true – it has never been comfortable to be a Christian. But to me, divorcing holiness and happiness seems illogical. And dangerous. God Himself is eternally holy and happy. In Him, the attributes are not separate, certainly not mutually exclusive, but entirely unified as part of His character. We cannot isolate God’s characteristics, because a divine attribute set alone always appears twisted. Mercy apart from justice, wrath apart from love, righteousness apart from joy – these things are contrary to God’s true nature. God is both fully holy and fully happy, and I deeply believe that as we grow to be more like Him we will increase in both of these things. The Bible commands us again and again to rejoice, to delight ourselves in the Lord, and to find satisfaction in Him. True holiness is not sterile morality; it is a life of blessedness, rightness and nearness to God. And what could be happier than that?
So, do we dare suggest that one of the purposes of God’s grace is our happiness? Yes. Yes! God is our Father, not an impersonal force. He truly wants us to be happy, to enjoy Him and all of His good gifts. In a week or two I will post about God’s merciful provision for our holiness – today the focus is happiness. Grace brings joy. Undeserved, profound joy. And this joy is not just reserved for eternity; it is for today. In paradise our joy will be completed, but its seed was planted on the day that we were born of Christ into grace.
Grace calms our fear
There is so much in this life that can make us afraid. As humans, we are stalked by fear. But grace, as it saturates our hearts and lives, meets each of these fears and softly disarms them. When we are afraid of rejection and loneliness, it reminds us that we have been chosen and cherished by a God whose love is weightier than the hatred of the whole world. When we fear the future, it makes us feel God’s sustaining mercy. Sometimes we fear ourselves. We’re terrified of failure, of our own sin, of not being good enough. And even then, grace whispers truth. We’re right – we can never measure up. But we have been made worthy through the blood of sacrifice and made strong to battle the darkness inside. Grace wipes away our fears. It frees us to be happy.
Grace makes moments meaningful
An attitude of entitlement kills joy. It makes happiness illogical – because how can I live in gratitude and abandon if I deserve better than I’ve been given?
Grace does the opposite. As recipients of God’s unmerited favor, we know how undeserving we are. Every time we look at the cross we are reminded of it. We earned the full unmixed cup of God’s wrath, and only by grace it has been turned away from us. In light of this, every gift, no matter how small, is astounding. It might be the wings of a ladybug, the flutter of falling leaves, or a stream of hot clean water from a faucet. Small as they are, these things silence complaints and kindle worship. Grace bears gratitude, and gratitude transforms. It makes life a sanctuary – a sanctuary of joy.
Grace gives us hope
We can’t see the future. At least, not entirely. I can’t tell you what will happen to me in an hour, or a day, or a year. But I do know what my destiny is, and that is where my hope comes from. We can be happy in grace because it has provided for us a future that cannot be changed. No matter whether we’re facing a bad day or a life-changing loss, we can be confident in the hope of heaven that makes all suffering worth it.
This is especially important because, of course, we cannot always feel happy in this flawed world. There will be seasons of deep grief in our lives. Often there will be times of discouragement and uncertainty. By saying that God wants us to be happy, I am not claiming that we will have easy lives or that we always need to keep up a show of cheerfulness. Even God Himself has experienced deep sadness and anger. But that’s why hope is so important – so necessary. Christ was able to bear the ordeal of the cross “because of the joy that was before Him.” It was hope that got Him through – hope and joy. He wept at Lazarus’ graveside, but the tears weren’t despairing. They were tears of grief and compassion, shed in a moment of deep loss, but He was confident that the sadness was only temporary. He knew, without a doubt, that in a few moments Lazarus would be breathing again, walking again, and the wild grief surrounding the burial site would be transformed into joy. That is what grace offers us. Hope that allows us to grieve without despairing. Hope that empowers us to suffer without cracking. In every season of darkness, grace shines brilliantly with the expectation of Christ’s return for His bride and the dawning of joy that cannot end.
These are only a few of the ways in which God in His grace has provided for our happiness. God does not want us to live in dryness, discouragement or simply going through the motions. He wants our relationship with Him to bring us vibrant happiness, happiness potent enough to sustain even martyrs through torture and death. His grace brings joy – overwhelming joy, that bubbles over in laughter, in praise, in love.