Gospel Relevance

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How to be a Happy Christian

How to be a happy Christian — because all Christians want to be happy, right?

A blog post on happiness may sound cheesy to some.

“Happiness?”

“Wait … isn’t joy for Christians and happiness for everyone else?

Hmm.

Common misconception.

I recently finished Randy Alcorn’s excellent book Happiness. In the book, Alcorn writes on happiness in the Christian life and answers common misconceptions (like the one stated above). I named it my favorite read of 2015. As a result, I’ve been thinking a lot more about happiness, and realized I want more of it.

Don’t you?

How to be a happy Christian

This is, to be honest, a struggle for me.

My natural disposition is reflective and melancholic. “God wants you to be holy, not happy,” is what I used to preach. If I experienced satisfaction from “worldly things,” I was in sin.

Turns out, I was totally wrong.

God is infinitely happy, and wants his people to be happy in him. Of course, through a right relationship with God, and living to glorify and enjoy him. But that doesn’t mean you have to live an ascetic life.

So  . . . how do you grow in happiness?

How to Be A Happy Christian: 10 Ways 

1) Stop living in the past.

You got fired. The relationship ended. The church hurt you. It stings. No, like, it really stings.

I know, I know, I know.

But does it give you happiness to dwell on it?

“Bitterness is like drinking the poison and waiting for the other person to die,” says Joanna Weaver.

Dwelling on what you can’t change will only make it worse.

Before trusting in Christ, Paul knew a lot of success. But he also murdered Christians. He writes, “But one thing I do, forgetting what lies behind, and straining forward to what lies ahead (Phil. 3:13).

Whether your past haunts you, or if you miss “the good ol’ days,” forget what’s behind you and be alive to what God has for you in the present.

2) Change your perspective.

Much of happiness in about perspective. And until you understand what you truly deserve, you won’t be happy with what you actually get.

God does not owe anyone success, favor or, heck — even grace or mercy. This is all a beautiful, undeserved gift that we often take granted. If you change your perspective, you’ll grow in happiness.

3) Lower your expectations. 

We expect too much out of this life, don’t we?

We’re confused when trials hit. We long for certain things, finally get them, and then think, “So this is what it’s like to have ____? I thought it’d be more awesome this.”

We expect from stuff that we can only get from God, and this is the reason for our emptiness. As C.S. Lewis says, “If we find ourselves with a desire that nothing in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that we were made for another world.”

4) Spend daily time with God. 

I hope I don’t sound legalistic. But if you don’t spend regular, extensive time with God through prayer and Bible reading, I’m not sure why or how you’d expect to experience a lot of happiness.

5) Take care of your body. 

Get good sleep. Take a multivitamin. Exercise regularly. Get on a diet. You’d be amazed at how well proper care of your body will translate into your spiritual well-being.

6) Grow in gratitude. 

“Pens have eyes,” John Piper once said.

We often miss God’s blessings because we don’t stop to recognize them. We’re so obsessed with what we don’t have that we’re never grateful for what we do have.

Maybe you’re more intentional in prayer.

Or maybe your keep a “gratitude journal” where you write down things you’re grateful for.

Whatever you do, you have to learn how to grow in gratitude to experience happiness.

Grateful

7) Get on mission. 

Ever hear a story of someone you know leading someone else to Christ? Their face is glowing with happiness.

I know in my own life this is true: When I’m on mission with Jesus and telling people about him, I feel a happiness that I can’t quite articulate. O, the happiness of commending Christ to an unbeliever!

8) Think of yourself less. 

Famous quote you’ve probably heard a thousand times: “Humility is not thinking less of yourself, but thinking of yourself less.”

It’s true.

Self-absorption is the fast track to misery, whereas serving and thinking of others before yourself leads to happiness. It’s not a contradiction. It’s a paradox — a beautiful paradox indeed.

9) Serve your church.

You were created to be in community. The Christian life is not just “you and Jesus.” Find a good church, stay, serve, and sacrifice. You’ll find yourself more happy when you dedicate your life to something greater than yourself.

10) Stop the comparisons. 

If gratitude is the chief of joy, then comparison is the thief of joy.

Nothing will rob your happiness (or increase your pride) quicker than comparing your life with someone else’s. Jealousy happens when you notice how God has blessed others, but forget how God has blessed you. No one’s life is as awesome as they portray on Instagram.

This is just a start. There’s a lot more ways, and plenty of more resources that can point you to happiness. But don’t think for a second that to be happy is a sin — it’s not. And by God’s grace, he can make you more happy for his glory. As Andrew Bonar says, “God can make you happy in any circumstances. Without him nothing can.”

You might also like:

  1. How to Become a Morning Person Even if You Hate Mornings 
  2. 7 Mistakes I Made During a Very Busy Season of Life 
  3. What God Really Wants from You 

About David Qaoud

David Qaoud (MDiv, Covenant Theological Seminary) is associate pastor of Bethesda Evangelical Church in St. Louis, Missouri, and founder of gospelrelevance.com. His work has appeared on The Gospel Coalition, For the Church, and Banner of Truth. He lives in St. Louis with his wife and two children. Learn more.

4 Replies

  1. Amen to all of that! That list is absolutely spot on. 🙂 Although number 1 may take some real healing for some people, and changing our way of thinking can take some work! Happiness is definitely a journey, not a destination.

    Re. the service one, I remember when I had to write an essay for a Christian youth work course when I was 18, and I wrote that I wasn’t sure that my service really counted because it didn’t feel sacrificial, but it made me happy instead. Thankfully the tutor told me I’d got it wrong! There is such happiness to be found in life, because God put it there to be found!

  2. Hey Charissa, you’re right. Number one does (at times) require patience and healing, but grateful that we can often (but not always) move on *while* we heal. And that’s a great story about your tutor! A good principal to learn at age 18, which can potentially carry on for the rest of your life. 🙂

  3. Lorraine Neal

    Hello David! You need to know just how timely this blog was for those in our Gospel Community (the one that Robert is in!). We briefly touched last night on this very thing! I haven’t had a very good couple of years…..death of my daughter, divorce, losing my home…..but the very first point of forgetting the past and focusing on living in the present is exactly what I needed to read this morning! Thank you for sharing these thoughts. I’m jazzed about reading your other blogs!

    1. Hi Lorraine! Thanks for the kind words. Also appreciate your humility and vulnerability on sharing your past couple of years. So very sorry to hear that. Hope you enjoy other posts as well. Feel free to subscribe via email so you don’t have to keep coming back to the site, and always reach out if I can help in anyway. 🙂