The Gospel of God’s Happiness

Is the God you think of day to day much happier than you? Do you think the Father bright and abundant or rather frownful and displeased? Does he enjoy his Life? Or is he just a tad bored, waiting for you to cheer him up a bit? What is your God like? We smile less than we might, because we feel little warmth from the smiling God.

We have heard the good news of the holy God, the just God, the three-in-one God, the mighty and compassionate, the faithful and all-wise, the loving and prayer-hearing and covenant-keeping God — but what of the happy God, the blessed God? If we look forward to “enjoying him forever,” do we not first need to be convinced that he is enjoyable? And can a King who stifles song or laughter really satisfy our souls (though he be otherwise strong and wise and good)? Do we color the God of Beauty grey, imagining him who makes the seraph burn and the bird warble to be the Sovereign Eeyore in these Hundred Acre Woods?

Gospel of God’s Happiness

Again, the inescapably personal question: Is your God happy? Is he deeply pleased, eternally bright, the waterfall cascading the edges and satisfying your adopted soul, if born again you be? Can you join to sing,

Joyful, joyful, we adore Thee,
God of glory, Lord of love;
Hearts unfold like flowers before Thee,
Opening to the sun above.

I want my heart to unfold more sweetly, more fully. So, let’s gaze up at the brilliance of the divine happiness together. As with the apostle John, if everything were to be written, I suppose that the world itself could not contain the books (John 21:25). Most must be omitted, but even as a little honey can brighten the eyes, a few glimpses of his happiness can freshen our joy in him.

His Pleasure Precedes Us

Mercifully, the Arkenstone jewel of God’s happiness is not the creature — his perfect, holy, complete joy precedes us. God’s happiness is infinite and eternal and untainted precisely because it is independent — he draws from wells we knew not of, that which always was and always will be.

Survey the pantheon of gods, and here alone we find the only Being that can satisfy the soul forever. A fulsome ocean surges within himself — Father, Son, and Holy Ghost — waters of bliss that he invites the redeemed to swim within. God has never been needy or lonely or bored. The salvation of man is a subplot, a minor theme, within an eternal drama of Trinitarian love. Baffling man-centric theologies, John Piper writes,

Within the triune Godhead (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit), God has been uppermost in his own affections for all eternity. This belongs to his very nature, for he has begotten and loved the Son from all eternity. Therefore, God has been supremely and eternally happy in the fellowship of the Trinity. (Collected Works, vol. 2, 48–49)

Here we find our glad tidings: His happiness does not depend upon us — thus he can satisfy us. None can pickpocket his pleasure. Not Satan, not the world, not our sin. “It should delight us beyond all expression,” writes Henry Scougal, “to consider that the one who is beloved in our own souls is infinitely happy in himself and that all his enemies cannot shake or unsettle him from his throne” (Life of God in the Soul of Man, 83). The triune God’s delight cannot sag or wobble; his cheerful crown cannot topple from his brow. He does not sink into despair.

Gladness Who Creates

If eternity were an apartment, God did not need a pet to keep him company. The triune God needed nothing upon which to dote or depend. His golden existence never borrows from other suns.

Yet we read, “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth” (Genesis 1:1) — why? If he is so happy and blessed, why create anything at all? Because God delights to share his fullness, his happiness, his life, his love, his glory — not to complete that fullness, but to extend it to others.

“There is an expansive quality to his joy,” writes Piper. “It wants to share itself. The impulse to create the world was not from weakness, as though God were lacking in some perfection that creation could supply.” To quote Jonathan Edwards, “It is no argument of the emptiness or deficiency of a fountain, that it is inclined to overflow.” Again, Piper writes, “All his works are simply the spillover of his infinite exuberance for his own excellence” (Works, 49).

In the beginning, then, God created the heavens and the earth freely, bountifully, happily. He looked down as an artist painting — stars, fish, mountains, man — “Oh, that is good!” He creates and admires and gives and fills and blesses from a full cupboard.

Delight Comes for Us

The God who didn’t need you to be happy, the heaven within himself that needed not angels or humans, sacrificed to include us in that happiness. He came for us.

The God who did not need us chose us — and at total cost to himself. The blessedness of God increases the gospel’s voltage. If God had thrown all into the lake of fire, downed Adam and Eve in a flood, and moved on, God would have lost nothing. But the great I Am — rising from his own good pleasure as Giver, for his own great name of Love, growing from the everlasting heart of a Father — authored a story, perilous and splendid, full of darkness and light, to communicate himself more fully, and exalt his Son, and so fill our cup to overflowing.

“God’s happiness does not depend upon us — thus he can satisfy us.”

Ours is not just the gospel of God, but “the gospel of the glory of the blessed God” (1 Timothy 1:11). Rightly do angels longingly gaze after it. When time ripened, the eternal Son came. Begrudgingly? Reluctantly? Indifferently? “In him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross” (Colossians 1:19–20).

Glimpses of eternal rays pierce through at Jesus’s baptism and transfiguration. The Father’s supreme delight shone down upon his Son: “Behold, my servant whom I have chosen, my beloved with whom my soul is well pleased” (Matthew 12:18; 3:17; 17:5). “Father,” Jesus prayed on the eve of his death, “I desire that they also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory that you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world” (John 17:24).

The Son’s whole drama — sung to us as good news — plays out in a theater of eternal love: The Father to the Son, the Son to the Father, and the Spirit lifting the elect to dwell in those clouds.

Happiness Brings Us Home

The God who does not need us to be happy himself promises to make his people happy forever. At the end of our weak service, the Master says, “Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master” (Matthew 25:23). Enter into the paradise of triune bliss, the Promised Land of milk and mirth, of honey and happiness.

Does your God invite you into his own joy? I find the unfaithful servant of the story instructive. The Master gave him one talent, and he went and buried it. Why did he bury it away?

Master, I knew you to be a hard man, reaping where you did not sow, and gathering where you scattered no seed, so I was afraid, and I went and hid your talent in the ground. Here, you have what is yours. (Matthew 25:24–25)

He did not know the Master who invites into his own joy. The Master who smiles and says, “Well done.” He harbored hard thoughts, buried his talents under hard ground, and received a hard wage: “You wicked and slothful servant! . . . Take the talent from him and give it to him who has the ten talents. . . . And cast the worthless servant into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth” (Matthew 25:26, 28, 30).

How vital it is to know God’s heart. How many talents hide beneath mounds of dirt in our backyards? Do you believe you serve a hard and extorting God? Believer, come to the open window and gaze through Jesus’s words: “Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom” (Luke 12:32). Stir at your God’s vow: “I will rejoice in doing them good, and I will plant them in this land in faithfulness, with all my heart and all my soul” (Jeremiah 32:41). Quiet under his singing:

The Lord your God is in your midst,
     a mighty one who will save;
he will rejoice over you with gladness;
     he will quiet you by his love;
he will exult over you with loud singing. (Zephaniah 3:17)

Orthodox of Heart

Brother or sister in Jesus, the God you serve from day to day, is he happy? Not just holy, powerful, righteous, or wise, but happy? Not flustered, standoffish, or unimpressed, but happy?

“Is it not a pity,” asks Richard Baxter, “that our hearts are not as orthodox as our heads?” Yes, it is a pity. Oh, how our hearts would burst. How fiercely his happiness would arm us against worldliness. How carelessly we would laugh off lesser pleasures of lust and pride. How we would dare to take greater risks with our talents, empowering evangelism and world missions.

When we see the heights and depths of God’s happiness, how can commands such as “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice” seem unreasonable (Philippians 4:4)? How can we resist the psalmist’s summon, “Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth! Serve the Lord with gladness! Come into his presence with singing!” (Psalm 100:1–2)? How can we not endure unwanted trials knowing that we shall soon be before our Lord in whose “presence there is fullness of joy” and at whose “right hand [there] are pleasures forevermore” (Psalm 16:11)?

A few more days, a few more sorrows, a few more disappointments, and then . . .