If You’re a Christian, Why Aren’t You Happy?


Unhappy, even depressed Christians are surprisingly common. Believing in God, praying and walking with Jesus doesn’t guarantee happiness. In fact, Christians who believe God will answer their prayers the way they want are even unhappier than unbelievers! Why? Because they’re disappointed when God doesn’t give them what they want.

When I wrote How to Be Happy Even Though You’re Childless I didn’t realize how much of my joy is a gift from God. I tried to encourage unhappy women to change their thought patterns, get healthier physically, and be grateful for the good things in life. I knew that believing in and following Jesus didn’t guarantee happy Christian living, but I did think believers could change how they live, get healthy, and perhaps even blossom into who God created them to be.

I was wrong. The more I learn about Christian living, following Jesus, listening to the Holy Spirit and reading Scripture, the less I know about “how to be a happy Christian.” And, the more Christians I talk to, the more I realize how futile and hopeless it is to chase happiness.

So how do unhappy, depressed Christians experience the joy of the Lord, the wisdom of the Holy Spirit, and the wonder of Jesus? Not to mention peace, love, compassion, joy, forgiveness and grace. Here are three ways: 1) Recognize the difference between happiness and joy; 2) Learn who God is in the Old Testament; and 3) Ask for a change of heart.

You’re a Christian, So Why Aren’t You Happy?

This blog post is part of my She Blossoms Through the Bible project; I’m writing an article for every chapter in every book of Scripture. Today we’re immersed in Exodus 33; Moses and God are debating the pros and cons of God’s presence accompanying them to the Promised Land.

The Israelites built and worshipped a golden calf while Moses was on the mountain for 40 days and nights. The people were anxious, worried and maybe even bored. They didn’t trust God’s timing because they were confused and scared. The Israelites weren’t happy (neither were they Christian), so they tried to create their own source of happiness and blessing. They made a huge mistake. Sad face for them, but at least we can learn from their pain, grief, and regret.

1. Happy versus joyful Christians

Why Arent I Happy Unhappy Christians Exodus 33 Blossom Tips
You’re a Christian, So Why Aren’t You Happy?

“The Lord spoke to Moses: “Go up from here, you and the people you brought up from the land of Egypt, to the land I promised to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, saying: I will give it to your offspring. I will send an angel ahead of you and will drive out the Canaanites, Amorites, Hethites, Perizzites, Hivites, and Jebusites. Go up to a land flowing with milk and honey. But I will not go up with you because you are a stiff-necked people; otherwise, I might destroy you on the way.” When the people heard this bad news, they mourned and didn’t put on their jewelry.” – Exodus 33:1-4. Why did the Israelites mourn? Why weren’t they happy that God was providing them with an angel to lead them to the Promised Land? They didn’t even have to fight people to get the land — and it was flowing with milk and honey! The Israelites weren’t happy because their attempts to chase short-term happiness by worshiping the golden calf destroyed their chances for long-term joy, peace and fulfillment.

Happiness comes from a temporary experience, possession, place or person. Joy is deeper and more meaningful — it’s a deep feeling of meaning, fullness and love in your soul. Happy Christians feel the “joy of the Lord” when the Holy Spirit reveals the beauty of Jesus Christ in the world. For example, I feel temporarily happy when I savor fresh ripe mango, a big bowl of hot salty popcorn, or even a soft boiled egg on a rice cake with ketchup and sauerkraut (my favorite breakfast!). But I feel joy when I’m walking outside at 5 a.m. before the sun rises, while the stars are still out, feeling God’s presence and receiving wisdom from the Holy Spirit. Yesterday I saw a shooting star! The whole experience of being with God is joy.

2. Learn who God is in the Old Testament

I’ve been wrestling with two verses in Exodus 33: “The Lord would speak with Moses face to face, just as a man speaks with his friend, then Moses would return to the camp” (verse 11) and “You cannot see my face, for humans cannot see me and live” (verse 19). Don’t those two verses contradict each other? I know there is something deep and meaningful there, but I haven’t taken the time to research what “face to face” means in verse 11 and what “my face” means in verse 19. It’s possible that two different Hebrew words mean “face” in English, which may explain the contradiction. It’s also possible that Moses’ relationship with God changed, or that “face to face” isn’t a literal description of their time together. I don’t know…and that’s why I am not a happy Christian when I think of those two verses. Nor am I joyful.

Take time to learn for yourself who God is in the Hebrew Scriptures. Many Christians focus on Jesus and the gospels in the New Testament — after all, it is a happy place to be! Forgiveness, love, childlike faith, joy, grace, miracles, healing…Jesus is just amazing. And let’s not forget the Holy Spirit! The Holy Spirit (Ruach in Hebrew) came alive for all believers after Jesus’ death. This fact alone should make us happy Christians, feeling the joy of the Lord because Ruach constantly reveals the beauty of Jesus Christ in the world. We just haven’t trained our eyes to see Him. We don’t know how God related to His people in the Old Testament, and how deeply He loves us. If you’re an unhappy Christian, make time to read the Old Testament and learn who God is. Look for evidence of Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit in books like Deuteronomy, Jeremiah, Jonah and Obadiah.



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3. Ask the Holy Spirit to change your heart

Exodus 33:17 says, “The Lord answered Moses, “I will do this very thing you have asked, for you have found favor with me, and I know you by name.” God first said He would not accompany the Israelites to the Promised Land because He was so angry (and hurt, and betrayed, and grieved) that they had so little faith. The Israelites didn’t trust God, they didn’t remember how He brought them out of Egypt, they didn’t have faith in His plans for their future. God appeared to have changed His mind in Exodus 33; He said He would go with the Israelites to the Promised Land after all. Whether or not God actually changed His mind is not as important as the fact that He wants us — Christian believers today — to see who He is and how He relates to His people. He wants to dwell with us, to know us and be know. This is a miracle! It’s amazing, that the God who created the universe wants to have a personal relationship with each one of us.

Being a “happy Christian” is less important than having a relationship with God.  God is real. He has emotions, thoughts, plans and desires for you. He knows your past, and He knows where you are right now. The proof that He wants to know you is in Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit; those persons are your entryway into the heart of God. But before you can truly, deeply know and feel the joy of the Lord you have to commit to learning who He is. You need to listen to His call, and ask the Holy Spirit to change your heart. You need to stop focusing on “how to be a happy Christian” and keep your eyes fixed on God, Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit.

Look up, and return God’s gaze. He wants far more for you than to be a happy Christian. He wants you to experience His joy — and that only happens when you invite the Holy Spirit into your mind, body, heart and soul. You will feel the joy of the Lord if you keep your heart and spirit open to the Holy Spirit. Let Him reveal the beauty of Jesus Christ in the world around you. Let Him fill you with the joy, peace, love, compassion and hope that surpasses all understanding.

With His love,

Laurie

She Blossoms Through the Bible – Previous Articles

If you’re an unhappy Christian who wants more joy, peace and love, read How to Be More Joyful.

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4 thoughts on “If You’re a Christian, Why Aren’t You Happy?

  • Shelly

    Please please please be aware that there is real chemical depression and mental illness that can’t simply be prayed away no matter how much faith one might have. I was only successfully diagnosed with and treated for bipolar disorder once I was OUT of an evangelical environment that insisted my depression was a spiritual attack from satan.

    God does want us to have true joy, and God also gave us the intelligence to discover medicine that can help us along the way if we need it.

  • Anonymous

    “You will feel the joy of the Lord if you keep your heart and spirit open to the Holy Spirit” no, you missed the mark of this one. Joy is also a reaction in the brain – neurotransmitters and electrical impulses and the like. Mental illness means for many an inability to feel joy OR happiness.

    I recommend further study of the brain and studies done with rats/mice that can induce a joyless state simply by tweaking certain hormones/neurotransmitters. To anyone feeling yet again misunderstood by this article, please take comfort. Joy is a luxury that depression can take away and you are still deeply loved by God even though cannot feel it. Look to medication or some good therapy and move toward the goal of being able to feel joy again.

  • Jackie

    Laurie,
    Your message today really hits at me, in so many ways. I have not had prayers answered the way I want and yet I still pray, but my Faith is weak and why should I keep praying for something that obviously is not going to happen? I believe in God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. I pray all the time every day. all the time. I talk to God in my thoughts and from my heart. Out loud and in the quiet of my soul. and yet, I wait. I understand the reasons for unanswered prayers. Sometimes yes, sometimes not yet, and sometimes, no. I’m overwhelmed with worry and anxiety about SO many things, and yet God is SO quiet. Still I wait, and hope. Maybe today, maybe later, maybe tonight. Maybe, maybe, maybe. Maybe God is using this for me to grow closer to Him and to trust Him more. I don’t know. I am close to Him. I am trying to trust Him more. Either way and for whatever reasons, there is nothing that I can do, but ask and Pray. I am an unhappy Christian and I seem to have no joy right now. I am SO thankful for everything, but I don’t know who to be joyful. Please tell me.
    I love reading your comments. There are more helpful that you can know. May God continue to Bless you always, and Thank you for everything.
    Jackie

    • Laurie Post author

      Dear Jackie,

      Thank you for sharing your heart here! You are truly wrestling with your faith and working out your salvation with fear and trembling. This – though you may not see it now – will make you a deeper, strong, more loving follower of Jesus than all the answered prayers in the world could. You may feel like an unhappy Christian now, but there is so much growth happening beneath the surface. And those roots and sprouts will break through the dark soul, and blossom into something better, bigger, brighter and more beautiful than you ever dreamed.

      You inspired me to write this article:
      Changing the Way You See God When You’re Unhappy
      https://blossomtips.com/how-to-change-the-way-you-see-god/

      May you find hope, healing, freedom, peace and joy as you move forward with God. I pray for love and meaning to fill your life, and for His Presence to lift you higher and take you farther than you ever imagined! I pray that you find a solid, joyful relationship with God — a connection so solid, so strong that whether or not your prayers are answered doesn’t even matter. I pray that your experience and knowledge of God, the Holy Spirit, and Jesus Christ surpasses the things you want on this earth. I pray for wisdom and clarity, guidance and insight. Amen, amen, and amen.

      In His love,
      Laurie