Blessed is not Always Happy

Blessed is not Always Happy

September 28, 2019 The Emotional Christian 0
Cartoon children

There are basically three words in the Bible translated as ‘blessed’. The Hebrew word is ‘ashre’ and conveys a state of prosperity or happiness that comes when a superior bestows favour upon another. Quite often the superior is God and the other are people. The casual reader might think therefore that those who are blessed should be constantly happy. Moreover, cherry-picking some verses from the Bible can also give this impression. A couple of verses people like to quote are (Psalm 118:24)124 This is the day that Yahweh has made. We will rejoice and be glad in it! and (Philippians 4:4)24 Rejoice in the Lord always! Again I will say, “Rejoice!”.

Two New Testament words translated ‘blessed’ are not linked to being happy even though many people seem to use happy and blessed as the same. ‘Eulogeo’ means to speak well of. ‘Makarizo’ means to make lengthy or large.

Is it always right to rejoice and be happy?

Woman shedding a tear

I was taught the need of always rejoicing no matter what. Much of this was based on the Bible verse from (Philippians 4:4) “Rejoice in the Lord always. Again, I will say, rejoice!” Some Christian writers lay great emphasis on the need to do this especially when things are negative and difficult. There are a whole set of testimonies of people’s situations and lives being turned around by people deliberately setting out to constantly rejoice no matter what. Thank God for their great experiences and victories.

The emphasis on rejoicing was partly a reaction to past generations of Christians emphasising the sorrows and difficulties of living in the world. In both the rejoicing, and the difficulty of living in a world of sorrow and temptation, there is truth. We must not be tempted to overbalance on either.

My experience has been somewhat different from always rejoicing. There have been times of great sorrow and disappointment in my life. This was not helped by being surrounded by a group of people condemning me for being sorrowful. To them I was not in faith. There was something wrong with me because I was not constantly in a place of joyous victory. Moreover, having heard of the experience of a number of genuinely depressed people, no matter how hard they tried they could not feel happy and make joyful noises; some of their experiences have led me to believe that they were harmed by this attitude.

So should we condemn the sorrowful because they are not in a place of ‘victory’ as evidenced by living with a continual, “Smile God loves you,” expression on their faces or have we got some really wrong and imbalanced ideas about what it means to rejoice in the Lord always?

Thayer in his New Testament Greek Definitions renders the word for rejoice to mean to be well, to thrive. Thus, we can read (Philippians 4:4)34 Rejoice in the Lord always! Again I will say, “Rejoice!” as to thrive in the Lord always. This makes perfect sense in the context of Paul writing from a prison cell in difficult circumstances. To me it seems to be very Biblical for Christians to thrive in God even in difficult circumstances.

The Bible has a lot to say about rejoicing and weeping.

Dog with sad eyes

For a start, it says that there are times when it is right to rejoice but other times when it is right to weep. (Ecclesiastes 3:4)44 a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance;. I can think of nothing crueller than to expect someone in deep sorrow to go through the motions of expressing great joy. Moreover, biblically this is not correct (Proverbs 25:20)520 As one who takes away a garment in cold weather, or vinegar on soda, so is one who sings songs to a heavy heart.. One of the worst things done to me in ‘worship times’ was when I was rebuked for not singing and dancing even though I was deeply sorrowful. There can be great folly and harm done by rejoicing when we should be weeping and weeping when we should be rejoicing (Ecclesiastes 10:16, 17)616 Woe to you, land, when your king is a child, and your princes eat in the morning! 17 Happy are you, land, when your king is the son of nobles, and your princes eat in due season, for strength, and not for drunkenness!. Some people in the Bible came to a very bad end by rejoicing inappropriately. In fact, in one instance God said He would never forgive or forget the inappropriate expression of joy (Isaiah 22:12-14)712 In that day, the Lord, Yahweh of Armies, called to weeping, to mourning, to baldness, and to dressing in sackcloth; 13 and behold, joy and gladness, killing cattle and killing sheep, eating meat and drinking wine: “Let’s eat and drink, for tomorrow we will die.” 14 Yahweh of Armies revealed himself in my ears, “Surely this iniquity will not be forgiven you until you die,” says the Lord, Yahweh of Armies..

Are we at a point of time when we should be rejoicing, or should we be mourning and weeping?

In the sixty years plus, I have been in the church I have seen a decline in the numbers of people in the UK church. It may well be true that in other countries there has been great advancement and expansion, I can happily rejoice for those places, but not so for the UK. Moreover, I have seen increasing darkness and wickedness in the land blatantly taking place. I cannot rejoice in the suffering of people, victims of their own wrongdoing, or innocent victims of other people’s wrongdoing. The reality of this does not seem to jell with the constant upbeat positivism expressed by many in the UK church. This strikes me not as faith but rather unreality. I have also seen a great decline in the ability to joyfully engage in prayer. Moreover, even though we are better educated than ever, there seems an increasing ignorance in Biblical knowledge amongst Christians. Again, I cannot rejoice in this.

When King Belshazzar was besieged and surrounded by the Medes and Persians, he threw a party, (Daniel 5:1)81 Belshazzar the king made a great feast to a thousand of his lords, and drank wine before the thousand.. He would have been well advised to do what the King of Nineveh did in Jonah’s time which was to mourn (Jonah 3:5-10)95 The people of Nineveh believed God; and they proclaimed a fast, and put on sackcloth, from their greatest even to their least. . Disaster overtook Belshazzar but salvation came to Nineveh. Are we feasting when we should be fasting? A partying Adonijah made this mistake and it cost him his life (1 Kings 1:41-49)1049 All the guests of Adonijah were afraid, and rose up, and each man went his way. 50 Adonijah was afraid because of Solomon; and he arose, and went, and hung onto the horns of the altar. 51 Solomon was told, “Behold, Adonijah fears king Solomon; for, behold, he is hanging onto the horns of the altar, saying, ‘Let king Solomon swear to me first that he will not kill his servant with the sword.’ ”. Nehemiah got it right when he prayed and fasted regarding Jerusalem (Nehemiah 1:1-4)114 When I heard these words, I sat down and wept, and mourned several days; and I fasted and prayed before the God of heaven,. Daniel got it right when he prayed and fasted regarding the desolation of Jerusalem (Daniel 9:2-4)122 in the first year of his reign I, Daniel, understood by the books the number of the years about which Yahweh’s word came to Jeremiah the prophet, for the accomplishing of the desolations of Jerusalem, even seventy years. 3 I set my face to the Lord God, to seek by prayer and petitions, with fasting and sackcloth and ashes..

This is a time when we should hold a balanced view concerning rejoicing and mourning. Let us rejoice in all the goodness and blessings of God toward us. We need also to mourn and weep and seek God’s salvation upon this land and a reviving of the church in the UK and in other parts of the world.

Questions

  1. Can you think of times when it is appropriate to not be happy?
  2. How should we help people experience a full and balanced range of emotions?
  3. How do you feel about some situations in your life and is this appropriate?

 

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