Christians ought to be celebrating constantly. We ought to be preoccupied with parties, banquets, feasts, and merriment. We ought to give ourselves over to celebrations of joy because we have been liberated from the fear of life and the fear of death. We ought to attract people to the church quite literally by the sheer pleasure there is in being a Christian.
G. K. Chesterton is widely credited with saying, “Jesus promised his disciples three things: that they would be completely fearless, absurdly happy, and in constant trouble.” It might be argued that most Western Christians don’t exemplify any of these three—least of all “absurdly happy.”
In today’s world, Christianity is perceived to be about tradition and morality, not happiness. I’ve taught college courses on biblical ethics, and I make no apologies for defending morality. Certainly Christians are often unpopular or maligned for professing Christ and standing for biblical truth.
But there are valid reasons why unbelievers fear that becoming a Christian will result in unhappiness. They’ve known—as many of us churchgoers have also known—professing Christians who seemingly go out of their way to exude misery, not gladness.
Are We Chronically Unhappy?
I’ve seen Bible-believing, Christ-centered people post thoughts on a blog or on social media only to receive a string of hypercritical responses from people who wield Scripture verses like pickaxes, swiftly condemning viewpoints they consider suspicious. Responders assume the worst, not giving the benefit of the doubt, engaging in shotgun-style character assassination instead. If I were an unbeliever reading such responses, I certainly wouldn’t be drawn to the Christian faith.
Other believers focus on negative news and political issues to the point the good news doesn’t even factor into their thoughts or conversations. I see too many long-faced Christians who seem continuously angry, disillusioned, and defensive over politics and the infringement of their rights.
Many non-Christians view Jesus’s followers as “hypocritical,” “insensitive,” and “judgmental.” These words all describe unhappy people. (If the world judges us, so be it, but it shouldn’t be because we’re chronically unhappy.)
This isn’t the whole story, of course. Nearly every community includes people with quiet confidence in Christ who are extraordinarily loving, kind, helpful, and cheerful. Unfortunately, many unbelievers see them as the rare exception. How tragic, since happiness in Christ is one of our most powerful evangelistic tools.
Happiness in Christ is one of our most powerful evangelistic tools.
Consider Isaiah 52:7: “How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him who brings good news, who publishes peace, who brings good news of happiness, who publishes salvation . . . who says to Zion, ‘Your God reigns.’” Two of the most literal translations—the NASB and the ESV—render the Hebrew as “good news of happiness.” The immediate context of Isaiah 52–53 is about the Messiah, and this good news of happiness is exactly the same “good news of great joy” the angel announced to the shepherds after Jesus’s birth (Luke 2:10).
Truth is, the good news should leak into every aspect of our lives, even if we’re not consciously talking about God or witnessing to someone. Every time we ponder the gospel, live by it, share it, and anticipate its culmination in a world without sin and death, “good news of happiness” will permeate our lives with, well, happiness.
That’s exactly what happened when Paul and Barnabas took the gospel to the Gentiles. Paul said, “We bring you the good news [glad tidings (KJV)]. . . . And when the Gentiles heard this, they began rejoicing [the Gentiles were very happy to hear this (CJB)]. . . . The disciples were filled with joy and with the Holy Spirit [The disciples were overflowing with happiness (CEB)]” (Acts 13:32, 48, 52).