Should Christians be happy all the time?

June 24, 2016  |  Craig St. John

By John Crawford

Are Christians supposed to be happy all of the time? This is an important question because many Christians wonder what emotions are acceptable to God. In some parts of American Christianity, there is an unhealthy mentality that Christians should be happy all of the time, and that as a Christian, life’s circumstances will be better. But, how can we be happy when we see the evil and brokenness around us? How can we be happy when we see the harmful effects of sin bringing destruction unto people’s lives? Are we supposed to suppress our emotions? Thankfully, God’s Word reveals that it is ok not to be ok, and we can express our honest emotions to God in times of sorrow, suffering, and injustice. One of the ways we can do this is through lament.

Lament

Lament is not a common word for most Christians today, but its simple definition means to passionately express grief or sorrow. Even though it is not common in our modern vernacular, lament is a posture that is commonly seen in the Bible. If we look at the Book of Psalms, there are at least twenty psalms of lament (both individual and corporate). Additionally, the Book of Lamentations is a collection of five poems that lament the destruction of Jerusalem by the Babylonians in 586 BC, and grief and sorrow pervade the entire book. Also, when we look at Jesus, we see that he expressed grief and sorrow when he was deeply moved by the death of Lazarus (John 11). Furthermore, Romans 12:15 tells us to mourn with those who mourn. From these few biblical references, we can see that God’s Word shows us that the circumstances we encounter in a broken world will deeply affect us and cause us not to be ok. Since God created us with emotions, we shouldn’t feel the need to suppress them, but we can express them to him. It is during times of sorrow that we need to know that we can approach God with a posture of lament.

On Sunday. Riccardo preached on Psalm 13 (which is a psalm of lament), and he said that we need to pray for God’s presence, perspective, and power.

Presence

When we see evil and brokenness in the world like we saw last week in Orlando, it is common for us to ask “God, where are you?” We often wonder if he is sleeping, or if he really cares. Like David in Psalm 13, there are times that we don’t feel God’s presence, and we wonder if he has abandoned his people and his world. During these moments, it’s important to know we can be honest with God. Since he is our Father, he can take our honesty. Thankfully, Psalms teaches us how to pray, and we can take great comfort in the way David is honest with God about the way he feels.

Perspective

Even though we may not feel God’s presence during times of suffering and grief, we need to ask God to give us a new perspective in which to view a situation, because perspective matters. Even though it doesn’t change life’s circumstances, it changes our posture during those circumstances. One of the beautiful things about prayer is that it changes our posture and can give us a new perspective during difficult times. Also, it is crucial to remember that God is sovereign, and nothing is out of his control. His sovereignty should motivate our prayers because he is in control, and he hears the prayers of his people (Psalm 34:15-17).

Power

Within Christianity, it seems that some people overemphasize Satan by thinking he is behind everything, or some people underemphasize him by ignoring his power altogether. It is important that we don’t swing the pendulum to either side of these emphases, but have a healthy and biblical understanding of Satan and his works. Satan is real, and he is our enemy. 1 Peter 5:8 says that he is seeking to devour us, and one of the ways he does this is through spiritual attack. Since Satan engages in spiritual warfare against God’s people, we need prayer to protect us against our enemy (Ephesians 6:10-18). Additionally, we need to remember that sin is also our enemy, and the difficulties and suffering we face in life are due to the effects of sin. The various difficulties we experience in life could be due to our own sin, suffering from someone sinning against us, or experiencing the cosmic effects of sin.

But the good news in the midst of evil and suffering is that God is the deliverer and has power over Satan, sin, and death!

One day He will heal all of the brokenness in the world, and we know this because of the cross and resurrection. In Christ’s resurrection, he defeated Satan, sin, and death so that their power has been broken even though their presence still remains (Colossians 2:15). During the moments when we wonder if God really cares about the evil in the world, we can look to the cross. When we do, we see that he cared enough to leave the comfort of heaven, to put on flesh, and suffer so that the powers of darkness would be defeated forever.

The beauty of lament is that it will not last forever because one day Jesus will wipe the tears from our eyes and death, pain, and mourning will no longer exist (Revelation 21:4).