“God can make you happy in any circumstances. Without him nothing can.” Andrew Bonar*

There are two difficult things to believe in this quote. The first is that God can make you happy in any circumstances. The second is the claim that without God nothing can make you happy.

Let me take the “easiest” of these difficulties first, which is the second. “Without God, nothing can make you happy.”

No God, No Happiness

This does not mean that you cannot have any happiness without God. You can, but it’s too shallow and too brief to really satisfy, to really deserve the name “happiness.”

Sure, you can have a few moments of happiness at a football match – until they lose. You can have a few moments of happiness at a party – until you wake up the next day. You can have a few days of happiness with your new car, until the first scratch, or until the neighbor gets an even better one.

Because these happinesses are separated from the source of all happiness, they cannot go deep or last long. If you doubt  that, read Ecclesiastes.

With God, All Happy

“God can make you happy in any circumstances.” This is even harder to believe. It’s not saying that in the midst of the most painful providences – like a cancer diagnosis or a bereavement – we can expect Christians to be immediately full of joy.

Not at all. Christians weep and sorrow too. However, the Christian battles against that sadness by faith, and gradually and slowly begins to win the victory, to see the good hand of God, to sense the father’s love, to experience the Savior’s sympathy, and to enjoy the Spirit’s comfort.

As faith strengthens, so does joy, so that even in hard providences there is a deep and stable and substantial joy. It doesn’t remove the sorrow, but it counter-balances it and hopefully, eventually, even outweighs it.

“I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content.” (Phil 4:11)

*Rev. Andrew A. Bonar, Memoir and Remains of The Robert Murray McCheyne, (Dundee: Hamilton Adams and Co. 1847), 381.

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