Fulfilling Your Personal Definition of Happiness Is Not God’s Goal

God’s After Your Holiness

I am deeply persuaded that many of us struggle with questions of God’s goodness, faithfulness, and love, not because he has been unfaithful to any promise in any way, but because we simply are not on his agenda page. Our agenda, our definition of what a good God should give us, is a life that is comfortable, pleasurable, and predictable; one in which there’s lots of human affirmation and an absence of suffering. But consider God’s agenda, as it’s revealed in the following passages:

Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. (James 1:2–4)

In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. (1 Pet. 1:6–7)

New Morning Mercies for Teens

Paul David Tripp

This encouraging book by author Paul David Tripp offers 366 readings, adapted to help teenagers trust God and rely on his grace each and every day.

Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us. (Rom. 5:1–5)

But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith. (Phil. 3:7–9)

The message is consistent throughout all of these passages. God is not working to deliver to you your personal definition of happiness. If you’re on that agenda page, you are going to be disappointed with God and you are going to wonder if he loves you. God is after something better—your holiness, that is, the final completion of his redemptive work in you. The difficulties you face are not in the way of God’s plan, they do not show the failure of God’s plan, and they are not signs he has turned his back on you. No, those tough moments are a sure sign of the zeal of his redemptive love.

God is after something better—your holiness, that is, the final completion of his redemptive work in you.

God Cares for You as His Child

The big question is not, does God care for me? The Bible declares he does over and over again. It tells us that God’s eyes are on the righteous and his ears are open to their prayers (Ps. 34:15). It says that he is with us wherever we go (Gen. 28:15). The Bible welcomes us to bring our cares to God because he cares for us (1 Pet. 5:7). It tells us that he will never leave us or forsake us (Heb. 13:5). The message is clear and consistent—God cares for his own. If you are God’s child, you are never outside the scope of his constant care. The Bible is also clear and consistent when it talks of the unshakability of God’s love. His love is eternal. From the verse-by-verse refrain of Psalm 136, “for his steadfast love endures forever,” to Paul’s declaration in Romans 8 that nothing can separate us from the “love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord” (v. 39), the message is undebatable—God will never turn from the love he has lavished on us.

So if you’re God’s child, you’re wasting your spiritual time and energy worrying about God’s love. You’re not spending your time well if you’re trying to unpack little moments in your life to see if they are an indication of whether he loves you. It’s not wise to compare your life to another person’s, wondering what the evidence tells you about who God cares for the most. It is tempting to do all of these things, particularly when life is hard, when unpredictable and difficult things have entered your door. But questioning God’s love never goes anywhere good. When you are tempted to do so, you need to run to his Word for peace and reassurance. You’ll never establish personal peace by picking apart little moments and trying to look into the mysteries of life. The Bible was given to give you peace in those moments when it’s hard to figure out what in the world God is doing.

Something else needs to be said. If the big question isn’t whether God cares, then maybe the real question, one that is more practical to us all, is, will I recognize God’s care when it comes? Perhaps our problem is our definition and expectation of God’s care. You see, God’s care comes in a variety of packages. His care is not always a cool drink and a soft pillow. God’s care is not always relief from circumstances, release from trouble. There are many moments in our lives when the very thing that causes us to wonder about God’s care is his care. He knows that trouble will reveal our hearts or display his glory. Often trouble is a tool of care in the hands of the One who knows best what we need. He cares; therefore, make sure your definition of his care is not too narrow.

This article is adapted from New Morning Mercies for Teens: A Daily Gospel Devotional by Paul David Tripp.

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