Faith Forays

Does God Want You To Be Happy?

When I was growing up in the fundamentalist Christian church, I thought God was a big scary white dude in the sky with an awesome beard who hated me. I pictured God with a perpetual frown. I thought he was bossy, that he always wanted to be in charge, and that he took pleasure in punishing me.The god I was raised to believe in wanted to make me small. I felt like I had to squeeze my hopes into a box that just wasn’t big enough for them. I believed God hated who I was, because I wasn’t any of the things my parent’s religion wanted me to be. I was outspoken, I had opinions, and I had ideas that were bigger than their specific religious filter. I wanted no part in the traditional gender roles I was supposed to fill, and I felt like a god who said that that was the only way to be wasn’t a god I could connect with.I’ve made quite a journey since then. It has been messy and chaotic and full of roadblocks. I’m still on my way to believing that this Christian God wants me to be happy. That I was created to be who I am, not to become small. The turning point in my faith came when I decided that a god who didn’t want me to be happy was not a god worth following. I am so far removed now from the faith of my childhood that I feel like it’s not even the same religion, even though the label has stayed the same.

See, I think who we are, our personalities, dreams, quirks–I think that God likes us. I think God likes whatever messed-up parts of us we have, and I think God likes that we’re so varied, so multi-dimensional, across the spectrum of the human race. It doesn’t make sense to me that the things I feel are so deeply part of who I am, my very core, should be displeasing to the god I want to believe in. The things I like best about myself are the things I would hope God would like about me too. The things I want to achieve in life, the aspirations I have, the things I dream about while staring out the car window, are the things I want God to want for me too. I want to believe in a god who wants me to be all that I can be–a god who wants me to big, and who wants me to be happy.

I think that perhaps my experience, while very specifically related to a small corner of one religion, is not quite as foreign to others as I once thought it was. I know of many of my friends who have gone through similar transformations in what kind of god they want to believe in. I think there’s always something, some interpretation, someone who’s always determined to make us feel that god doesn’t like who we are, or who we want to be. For many, it can turn them away from the idea of any religion altogether. There’s something inherent in the belief in any god that makes us feel that we are less-than. I think it’s okay until it becomes not–at the point where we do not have the freedom to be ourselves, to be happy, or to even want to be happy.

What about you, readers? Have you ever felt like your religion, or God, didn’t want you to be happy?

Featured image by ambrosetea on flickr 

  • Mari Fray Foster

    “We are designed to be satisfied with the one eternal, permanent God. Evil is when we believe that God will not satisfy us and therefore pursue happiness in transient things. That’s the essence of sin.”

    I believe we are designed this way, yes we desire happiness, but I believe it truly comes, for the Christian, when we trust God to satisfy us over anything else in the world. I believe our joy, not just happiness, should come from Him who made all things, despite our circumstances or material desires!

    1 Thessalonians 5:16 ” Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. ”

  • Larissa Schaffnit

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  • Chelsea Parker

    I agree with your ideas that we are all made differently and that God delights in it. All our different personalities and character qualities fit together to make up the whole. This gives us all a sense of freedom to be who we are and not feel bad when we are different than other people in the world, which is a lovely thing.
    Regarding your thoughts on God wanting us to be happy: I definitely think that God wants us to have a sense of fulfillment and joy in the long-run of life, and I think He wants us to fill that through Christ. I think we may mean the same thing when you say “happiness” and I say “joy”, but the distinction that I want to make is the ultimate sense of feeling whole rather than just the emotion of happiness. Emotions are fickle things that can’t always be trusted as truth.
    Thanks for this article, and I love reading your posts every week!

  • Brian Juntunen

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  • Jodee Snavely

    I think God is our biggest fan! I’m thankful I grew up in a Christian home & church that advocated the awesomeness of God in a “He’s gonna be there for you, cheerin’ you on” sort of way. Who wants to serve a bitter, mean God who tells you that you’re doing wrong all the time? No one I know. I certainly do not want that. I think His love for us gets warped by cliches of “if it’s God’s will” and “Well, God is sovereign and in control” when He left a lot of things up to us and our shortcomings from doing things our own way is what gets us into trouble. I am just very thankful that I love & serve a God who likes me, too.

  • Aura Fedora Bishop

    becca- thanks for sharing your thoughts on your experience with faith. While I no longer refer to myself as a Christian (I think of spirituality in much more broad terms now) I relate to your transformation of spirituality in a lot of ways. On the flip side of that, I had a slightly more positive attitude about religion and God growing up. I was encouraged to explore other denominations on my own and had close friends of other faiths. It’s great to see people having open discussions about what is often considered a taboo topic.

  • Caryn Anne Welby-Solomon

    I felt exactly the same way – that the God I believed in was not the same as the one various other church leaders referred to, a God that hates homosexuals and believes that women should constantly be serving their husbands, where a single woman was hopeless. And then I discovered that I was going on what other people’s perceptions of God was, not what I knew Him to be. Thank you for this, we should never forget that God loves us

  • Anastasia Alaniz

    I’ll probably be very unpopular in my opinion that while I believe in a higher power I by no means believe the Bible. Man has a history of making things up to invoke fear in others thus gaining power over them and at least largely that is what I believe the Bible is. While it can give some good lessons on morals, it also is extremely hypocritical by saying that God is benevolent and forgiving and then showing him have his disciples kill others for a sin they’ve committed. Also, a lot of Christians (in my experience) are hypocritical and pick and choose what scriptures to live by. But I digress. It is my belief that whatever higher power there is loves us all no matter what. He can see into our hearts and knows if we are truly evil or not. So I don’t see that he takes a big issue with say…homosexuality. I refuse to worship a god who can see a form of love as evil or sinful just because it happens to be between two people of the same gender. Overall, I’m not a fan of organized religion because there is so much ignorance in it oftentimes. I could go on forever, but I’ll just stop here.

    • Becca Rose

      I don’t want you to feel unpopular at all! I’m so glad you are sharing your thoughts here. I hope that you don’t feel that you can’t share just because I’m coming from a perspective of organized religion. I can totally get where you’re coming from :)

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