Some might frown upon associating blessed with happy. To speak of a happy birthday or new year, much less a happy Christian might seem sensual and common, perhaps even profane, since happy is derived from the word hap, meaning fortune or chance. Besides, happy may not seem to describe accurately our life of continual death in this valley of tears. Therefore, if we are to speak of happiness in this life, isn’t the word blessed more spiritual and appropriate?

Happy is a perfectly good, biblical word. Scripture declares happy the man who fears the Lord (Ps. 128:1), who has mercy on the poor and keeps God’s law (Prov. 14:21; Prov. 29:18). Happy are we when we suffer for righteousness’ sake (I Pet. 3:14) or are reproached for Christ (I Pet. 4:14). To be a Christian person, therefore, is to be a happy person. Besides, the same Hebrew and Greek words translated “happy,” are elsewhere translated “blessed.” To be blessed is to be happy; to be happy, one must be blessed. And so our confessions also promote happiness. Most know Q&A 1 of the Heidelberg Catechism (…thy only comfort in life and in death). But we may forget Q&A 2 teaches that this comfort is so “we may live and die happily.” Lord’s Day 3 reminds us God created man to live with Him in eternal happiness. And the Belgic Confession says the happiness of man is that God imputes righteousness to sinners without works (Art. 23; Rom. 4:6).

Scripture presents a radically different notion of happiness than that of our depraved, carnal natures. Therefore, happy he who reads the Word and hears it (Rev. 1:3; Luke 11:28). Happy basically refers to a state of joy or gladness, but emphasizes its connection to particular circumstances. This is the Lord’s own meaning when, in the Beatitudes, He pronounces His citizens blessed and then adds—rejoice and be exceeding glad (Matt. 5:12). But what great difference in the circumstances of their happiness! Happy are the poor in spirit, the crying, the meek, hungry and thirsty for righteousness, merciful, pure in heart, peacemakers, and those persecuted for righteousness’ sake. The problem is not with happiness, but supposing it happens without God’s blessing, is due to earthly circumstances, or comes by fortune or chance.

Significantly, Scripture never associates being blessed or happy with earthly things—especially money, food, houses, clothing, or good health. Rather, it locates happiness exclusively in God. Scripture claims God to be the happy God (I Tim. 1:11). Therefore, happy are the people whose God is the Lord and whom He chooses for His inheritance (Ps. 144:15; Ps. 33:12). Happy are they who have God for their help (Ps. 146:5), trust in the Lord (Ps. 34:8), and whose strength is God (Ps. 84:4-5). Happiness is the goodness of God’s house (Ps. 65:4), enjoying the light of God’s countenance (Ps. 89:15), and that God preserves, keeps, and delivers us (Ps. 41:1-2). Jesus is also declared God’s happy Son (I Tim. 6:15). Happy, therefore, are they who kiss the Son (Ps. 2:12). Happy are they who know Jesus as Christ, have eyes to see and ears to hear, and are not offended by Christ (Matt. 11:6; Matt. 13:6; Matt. 21:9). Happy, because in Jesus, they have their transgressions forgiven and sin covered, and the Lord imputes to them no iniquity (Ps. 32:1-2).

The Christian’s happiness is expressed by living thankfully in holiness before God. The person to whom God imputes His own righteousness, lives happily before God in righteousness—the theme of the Psalms (Ps. 1:1). The happy man delights in God’s commandments, endures temptation, continues in God’s law (Jam. 1:12, 25), and keeps his garments of righteousness (Ps. 40:5; Rev. 16:15). The righteous Christian is also happy in every circumstance of life, even death. Happy are they who die in the Lord (Rev. 14:13). Called to the marriage supper of the Lamb, we happily wait the return of Christ (Rev. 19:9; Tit. 2:13). We are happy, because we partake in the first resurrection (Rev 20:6); happy, because great is our reward in heaven (Matt. 5:12); happy, because we receive the crown of life (Jam. 1:12); and happy, because we may eat of the tree of life and live in the holy city with God in Jesus Christ (Rev. 22:14). Aren’t you happy?