Happiness vs. Holiness


There is a difference between being happy and being holy. Which are you?

Happiness is an emotion. You might feel happy when you have a good day, or get a great compliment, or have the chance to do something really fun. Holiness is not an emotion. It isn't something you feel. It is something you are. To be holy means to be set apart, pure, or sacred. Practically speaking, we can pursue holiness by making choices that help us to be more like Christ. Unlike happiness, seeking holiness almost always requires sacrifice. 

Jesus certainly knew the difference between happiness and holiness. In Matthew 4:2–3, He fasted for 40 days and 40 nights despite Satan's temptation to turn stones into bread. Doing so might have made Him happy temporarily, but avoiding temptation kept Him set apart. In Matthew 15:29, we find Jesus trying to rest on a mountainside. He barely sat down when a crowd of people came to Him looking to be healed. Protecting His alone time might have made Jesus happy, but that's not what He did. Instead He ministered to those in need around Him even when it was inconvenient. The painful death Jesus experienced on the cross didn't make Him happy. But He willingly endured it because He is a holy God who desired to reconcile us to Himself. 

Over and over Jesus made hard choices and deprived Himself of comfort in order to live a life that was pleasing to the Father. Jesus is the King of Kings. Because of His royal position, our culture would say that He deserved to be comfortable during His time on earth. But Jesus didn't live with that sense of entitlement. He chose to live humbly and to pursue holiness instead of happiness. 

He calls us to the same standard. 

First Peter 1:16 says, "Be holy, because I am holy." 

This passage doesn't say be happy because I am happy. It doesn't say be comfortable because I am comfortable. Instead, God's Word encourages us to seek holiness because of Christ's example. 

Does the way that you live indicate that you are more concerned with being holy or being happy? Use the list below to evaluate whether you are more concerned with happiness or holiness. If God reveals an area of weakness to you, spend some time praying that He will show you how to pursue holiness in that area. 

  • The way I treat my family
  • The way I spend my time
  • The way I spend my money
  • My plans for the future
  • My dating relationships
  • Who I spend my free time with
  • The way I use my possessions
  • My prayer life
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