by Virginia Forste


In 2013, for the first three months of my son’s life, I lived as an agoraphobe. Agoraphobia, as defined by, is “a disorder that is characterized by anxiety in situations where escape could be difficult. Situations that may cause this anxiety also include those where help is not readily available.”


I was afraid to leave the house for fear my baby would cry, as they tend to do, and I wouldn’t know how to calm him. I once was escorted to the closest Walgreens by a very gracious friend who helped me get more diapers. (Their carts are not big enough to accommodate a car seat so I really didn’t see how I could purchase diapers and bring my son into the store. Sleep deprivation certainly hinders problem-solving, too!) When one is deep into a schedule of eating, changing, and napping that occurs every three hours if you’re lucky, it’s easy to think you “got nothing done” at the end of the day. Before I had kids, I too wondered how on earth a person could not have time for a shower. Trust me, it’s possible!


Our Definitions vs. God’s Definitions

How do you define happiness? Is it based on having healthy friendships? A fulfilling job? Taking frequent vacations? Rewarding volunteer experiences? Having a significant other? These desires are fine to have, but if we do not attain them, are we destined to be unhappy?


As I grew as a mom, I had to redefine my idea of success. Instead of shaming myself for not tidying the house or completing the grocery shopping, I asked myself, “Today, did I do my best to meet my son’s needs?”


What does the Bible say about happiness? The Greek word for joy is chara (pronounced “khar-ah”) which means, in one sense, to “rejoice because of grace.”1 The Greek word for happy is makarios (pronounced “mak-ar-ee-os”) for which “blessed” can be a synonym. One usage of this word is “a believer in fortunate position from receiving God’s provisions.”2


Isn’t it interesting how both definitions focus on God?


God has a way of redefining the things we already thought we had figured out, such as forgiveness. Some concepts were redefined with an even stricter slant. For example, we thought adultery meant having an intimate physical relationship with someone’s else spouse. As we see in the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus reorients believers (and us) to his definition: “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart” (Matthew 5:27, 28, NIV).


In another part of his longest recorded sermon (Matthew 5), Jesus uses the word “blessed” which is the same Greek word that can be translated “happy.” In perhaps his most famous message, Jesus attributes the word “blessed” to situations the world does not equate with happy circumstances—people who mourn, are hungry, tired, and persecuted.


Later in Hebrews, the author talks about the joy Jesus had in approaching his crucifixion:

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart (Hebrews 12:1-3, NIV).


The night before he was crucified, Jesus was so stressed about what he was about to endure that he sweat drops of blood. Jesus looked past his circumstances to the author of them and the purpose behind them, which gave him the strength and focus to endure the shame and pain of the cross.


God also knows what we mean when we talk about worldly happiness. He points out in Matthew 7:11 that God wants to give us good things:

“If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good things to those who ask him!” (NIV).


The Temporary vs. the Eternal

Does God want you to be happy? Yes, if you define happiness as he does.


Being happy doesn’t mean being without concerns or worry. Jesus guaranteed distress in this life: “I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world” (John 16:33, ESV).


We can be joyful in this life because we have a Savior who understands everything we go through and is there for us. And when we are discouraged and not feeling very blessed or happy, we can remind ourselves that this life is temporary, and that complete joy awaits us in Heaven. Our brains are too limited to imagine that type of joy—even on the most exciting and happiest day of our lives. This life has its ups and downs, but Heaven is all ups!


If I could talk to my younger self seemingly stuck in the repetitive nature of early parenthood, I would tell her a few things. I would say, “Yes, your baby will cry and that can be embarrassing, but you will survive that.” I would tell her to reach out to other moms for advice. And I would remind her of these precious words from Isaiah 40:11, “He will tend his flock like a shepherd; he will gather the lambs in his arms; he will carry them in his bosom, and gently lead those that are with young” (ESV).


We can be happy because we have Jesus and he is enough for whatever type of day we are having.


This past Sunday at Christ’s Church our senior minister, Brad Wilson, explored the question of “Does God Want You to Be Happy?” a bit more. If you missed that message, you can check it out here.






Virginia Forste is a former elementary school teacher. She enjoys reading, listening to podcasts, and leading Moms’ Group.