Of all God’s infinitely glorious attributes, perhaps his happiness should cause us the most envy. In God is the perfect union of all good things. He has an eternally infinite fullness, delight, and joy in himself — such that we shall never be able to fully appreciate what his joy is like for himself.
If God were infinitely good, but unable to effect good because he lacks power, that would make him miserable. If God were merciful and holy, but lacked wisdom to save sinners in a way that does justice to his mercy and holiness, he would also be miserable. If God were not triune, his love for himself would likewise make him miserable. Indeed, if God were eternal, but lacked infinite knowledge, he would be more miserable than those in hell.
As the perfect being, whose attributes all gloriously harmonize with one another, God enjoys a life that is most happy because he has full actualization in his being. Where there is infinite holiness, wisdom, goodness, power, knowledge, and more, there also is infinite happiness.
All Good Things Are in God
If there is any true happiness outside of God in this universe, it is a happiness derived from God. Indeed, according to John Owen, “The human nature of Christ himself in heaven is not [outside of God]; it lives in God, and God in it, in a full dependence on God, and receiving blessed and glorious communications from him” (Works, 1:325).
In addition, the happiness — or “blessedness” — of God must never be considered apart from the triunity of God. His blessedness consists not only in the perfect union of all good things in him, but also in the ineffable mutual love of the three persons. The bond of the Spirit between the Father and the Son brings our triune God infinite joy.
“If there is any true happiness outside of God in this universe, it is a happiness derived from God.”
Theologians have not only spoken of God’s blessedness as his abounding in all good things, but also as him being free from all miseries (1 John 1:5). But others did not stop there. It was strenuously held by some that we must affirm that God perfectly knows his blessedness. He desires nothing more than what he has because it is impossible for him to be more or less blessed than what he is.
The blessedness of God is the fountain from which we drink for truest happiness. Because his blessedness is the abounding of all good things, when he created the world, he created all things good and, thus, all things blessed. Adam was happy because he was good; Adam was good because he was happy. Adam was happy because God enabled him to know what an excellent state he was created in. And Adam was happy because he knew God’s love (1 John 4:8).
Sin brought misery. But God sent his Son to deal with sin and misery to make us like himself — blessed, happy, content, fulfilled, joyful.
Was Christ joyful all the days of his life? Was the “man of sorrows” a man of joy at the same time?
We have no reason to suspect that Christ was not always joyful during his life on earth — even though, if anyone would have an excuse for being miserable, that person was Christ.
Christ had to have been joyful for several reasons.
He was filled with the Holy Spirit, without measure (John 3:34). The fruit of the Spirit includes joy (Galatians 5:22).
He was good, free from sin; the righteous one had no reason not to love his personal holiness, which he received in abundance from his Father. Sin makes us miserable, but Christ was without sin (Hebrews 4:15).
He trusted his Father and submitted to his Father’s will. The Father desired joyful obedience from Christ, not just obedience. Therefore, Jesus went to the most terrifying place in the world (the cross) with joy set before him (Hebrews 12:2).
He knew all that he was doing in his life — that is, all of his obedience, even in his most difficult circumstances (like his temptation) — would lead to his glory and the salvation of his people. How could that not make him joyful even when he was weeping?
He claimed to be joyful because of God’s purposes. In Luke 10:21, Jesus “rejoiced in the Holy Spirit” because the Father had revealed to “little children” the salvation that comes through his victory over the devil (Luke 10:18–20; Hebrews 2:14).
He loved his friends, such as John, who would have brought him joy.
He had a peculiar knowledge of God’s attributes; he understood God as the fountain of blessedness, which meant he never needed to worry whether there would be a lack for him personally or his people corporately.
If there were ever a place where we could excuse Christ for lacking joy, it would be at Golgotha. Yet as Spurgeon writes,
A great sorrow was on Christ when our load was laid on him; but a greater joy flashed into his mind when he thought that we were thus recovered from our lost estate. . . . Even [“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”] when the depths of its woe have been sounded, will be found to have pearls of joy in its caverns.
“God sent his Son to deal with sin and misery to make us like himself — blessed, happy, content, fulfilled, joyful.”
Because of his work on our behalf, Christ knew that joy would be our reward. God would, through Christ and his Spirit, offer us continual fresh communications from the fullness of his blessed being. We will drink from the “rivers of pleasure” and refresh ourselves “in the eternal springs of life, light, and joy forevermore” (Owen, 1:553).
But here is the glory of our redemption: Such joy begins in this life, not just in the life to come: “Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory” (1 Peter 1:8).
Only as Happy as the One We Serve
Since God is the fountain of all blessedness, we cannot be truly happy in this life until he becomes our God. We are only as happy, or miserable, as the one we ultimately serve because nothing can offer more happiness than what is in itself.
God is infinite in happiness and so supplies joy and satisfaction first (and preeminently) to his Son — and then, by virtue of our union with Christ, and through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, he provides this same joy to us (John 16:24).
George Swinnock wisely states,
Those who serve the flesh as their god are miserable (Romans 16:18; Philippians 3:18) because their god is vile, weak, deceitful, and transitory (Psalm 49:20; 73:25–26; Isaiah 31:3; Jeremiah 17:9). Similarly, those who prize the world as their god are miserable because their god is vain, troublesome, uncertain, and fleeting (Ecclesiastes 1:2–3; 5:10; 1 Corinthians 7:29–31; 1 Timothy 6:9–10). But those who have an interest in this great God are happy: “Happy is that people, whose God is the Lord” (Psalm 144:15).
Swinnock adds that joy is the “highest and greatest gift that the infinite God can give to us. He can give us greater things than riches, honors, friends, and relations. . . . He can give us greater things than pardon of sin and peace of conscience. But he cannot give us anything greater than himself.”
“We are only as happy, or miserable, as the one we ultimately serve.”
Christ received his happiness from God through the Spirit; we then receive our happiness from God through Christ by the power of the Spirit. That is the only joy worth having because it comes from an inexhaustible fountain of blessedness that will overflow into our souls for all eternity so that our joy in heaven will only increase as we drink from our Blessed God and Savior.
When you are carrying your various crosses in this life, remember Jesus. Remember his joy and claim it as your own — for in him, and by the Spirit, his joy really is yours.