Happiness or Holiness?

Written by M. Ashley Evans

March 29, 2019

Worldly Happiness is Not the Goal



“I’m leaving him,” my friend told me.  They had been married for 7 years and had three young children.  I was dumbfounded and heartbroken for her.  I knew that there was some tension in their relationship. She had often remarked that her husband didn’t understand her.  He would often crack jokes at her expense.  But still, I never imagined that they would divorce.  My friend went on a long-winded explanation of halfhearted excuses – reasons that she didn’t seem to treat with any gravity.  There was nothing about abuse or infidelity.  Finally, she said with exasperation, “Honestly, I’m just not happy being married to him.”  She had bought into the world’s lie that her marriage and life was primarily about being happy.


The Bible does not call for naught but a somber attitude or a joyless life.  Not by any means. Scripture does not pit happiness and holiness against each other.  However, if our goal is happiness more so than our goal is holiness – we have a heart issue.  When our priorities are not lined up the way scripture tells us, we are setting them up as idols in our heart.  We should yearn not for fleeting worldly happiness, but holiness … And holiness produces lasting happiness.


My friend and I talked a while longer.  She didn’t want to pursue counseling.  She didn’t want to hear about God’s will for her life.  She said, “God wants me to be happy,” and left.  She was in desperate need for some sound theology.  That kind of thinking will only leave her broken and resentful.



Happy, Holy and Blessed.


Matthew Henry wrote, “Those are only happy, truly happy, that are holy, truly holy.”  We can see this throughout scripture.  The Psalms are replete with instructions on how to be the blessed man.  Happiness is synonymous with the biblical concept of “blessedness.”  This word is tied in with a person’s well-being in tune with what is good and right.  It is much more of an ethical concept than a psychological one.  We can see through scripture that blessedness/happiness is grounded upon a deep understanding of our purpose in life.  At its core, it is an understanding that God created us to bring Him glory and that we were designed to be His image bearer and to be obedient to Him.



“How blessed is everyone who fears the Lord, who walks in His ways When you shall eat of the fruit of your hands, you will be happy, and it will be well with you. Your wife shall be like a fruitful vine within your house, and children like olive plants around your table. Behold, for thus shall the man be blessed who fears the Lord.” Psalm 128:1-4


When Matthew Henry wrote on Psalm 1:1-3 he said, “goodness and holiness are not the only way to happiness but happiness itself.”  True happiness is true holiness.  Living holy isn’t at the expense of happiness – it is the cause of happiness. It is the delight in loving Jesus and following Him.


“You will make known to me the path of life; in Your presence is fullness of joy; in Your right hand there are pleasures forever.” Psalm 16:11


True Happiness Points Us Heavenward


So why is this godly happiness so distant?  So seemingly unreachable?  Because of sin.  Our sin alienates us from God.  It is because of our sin that we are in desperate need for a Redeemer to rescue us.  It is then only through His grace that we can find any measure of lasting happiness – the true happiness that comes with knowing Him and progressing in sanctification.  This true happiness is the lasting fruit of aligning our lives with God’s purposes for us, the very reason we were created.


“If you keep my commandment, you will abide in My love; just as I have kept My Father’s commandments and abide in His love. These things I have spoken to you so that My joy may be in you, and that your joy may be made full.” John 15:10-11


God has declared that He wants to make us holy. Christ died so that we could be made holy.  And repeatedly throughout the Bible, we are commanded to pursue increasing holiness, by relying on the grace given to us so that we can live in obedience.  It is by increasing our knowledge of Him and striving to understand more and more the beauty of His mercy that we find ourselves striving to be more and more obedient.  A joy-filled pursuit.  This is how we can remain truly happy in the midst of suffering.  It is this lasting happiness that points us towards eternity with Christ when our sanctification is made complete.


Thomas Brooks, one of the great Puritan writers, said in The Crown and Glory of Christianity: Or, Holiness, The Only Way to Happiness “Happiness is nothing but the quintessence of holiness …. An absolute fullness of holiness will make an absolute fullness of happiness. When our holiness is perfect, our happiness shall be perfect; and if this were attainable on earth, there would be but little reason for men to long to be in heaven.”



For more information on growing in sanctification check out our podcast episode here:  https://strivingforeternity.org/eternal-perspective-produces-godly-conduct/



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