Here's a question: How does God feel most of the time? Is He bored? Worried? Blase? Happy? Concerned? Detached? Engaged? Mad, glad or sad? It sounds lighthearted, but it's one of the most important questions of our entire spiritual journey. How does God feel when He looks at you? What wells up in His heart when His eyes turn upon your life? I have asked many people this question over the years, and they usually respond in one of two ways: God is mostly mad or God is mostly sad.
And in both cases, they think it's their fault. Many Christians believe very strongly that God is mostly angry and grieved with each of us. In some parts of the Body of Christ this sentiment is expressed clearly and openly, but in most quarters it's inarticulate. It's one of those under-the-surface, sinister opinions everybody holds, but nobody talks about. God is viewed as distant, angry, sitting on the throne and spending the bulk of His emotional energy being disappointed in mankind. We picture a weeping God who beats His breast and turns His eyes away from us in shame. But Scripture tells us the very opposite. Our God smiles and rejoices. His emotions fall into a third category: God is mostly glad.
That is the only correct answer! Moses, under the prophetic anointing, made a stunning declaration about the Lord's gladness: "The Lord your God will make you abound in all the work of your hands...For the Lord will again rejoice over you for good as He rejoiced over your fathers" (Deut. 30:9). In this passage, God was telling Moses that at the end of the age God will break forth with rejoicing over His people. He will reveal Himself to them as the glad God who overflows with delight and enjoyment. Instead of cowering at the feet of an angry God, the body of Christ will bask in the sunshine of His gladness. This is the day we are living in!
If this picture of God seems impossible to you, scan the Word. Passages about God's gladness abound throughout the Bible. For example, Zephaniah 3:17 reveals Him as One who rejoices. "He will take great delight in you, he will quiet you with his love, he will rejoice over you with singing" (NIV). Imagine that! He will sing and rejoice over His people with gladness. He will quiet our stormy hearts with the revelation of His love. God's songs over His people are not songs of anger but of rejoicing and tender love. In this passage, He is not just exhorting people to be glad, but He is promising to sing songs that make us glad. These songs reveal His affectionate heart for us. This isn't just dry exhortation to be glad, but the experiential understanding of His gladness for us. That gladness is catching!
The rest of the book of Zephaniah lays the backdrop for this divine promise. It describes the scenes at the end of the age when everything that can be shaken is being shaken. In that day, men will literally die of heart attacks because of fear (Lk. 21:26). Fear will be one of the predominant emotions worldwide. In the midst of this dramatic shaking, God promises that He will comfort and quiet His people by releasing songs of His affection and gladness. We will be calmed on the inside by this revelation. Intimacy with a glad God will nourish our souls and sustain the church in the midst of unprecedented calamity. Like a parent with a troubled child, God will sing love songs that soothe us and impart His delight to us.
I've already said I believe the greatest dimension of God's glory is His emotions, and now we begin to see that central to His emotional life is His gladness and joy. This is what God communicated to Moses when he longed to see God's glory. God promised to make known His glory and goodness to him by revealing His compassion (Ex 33:18-19). Next, God declared His glory as being "the LORD, the LORD God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abounding in goodness and truth, keeping mercy for thousands" (Ex 34:6-7). Notice that when God reveals His glory, He emphasizes the glory of His emotions. As we enter into the reality of His happiness and joy, our hearts discover other emotions that abound in His heart. We begin to experience His desires for us, His beauty, and His pleasures. But we cannot skip the foundational step of understanding His gladness. We will not easily believe that God burns with desire for us or that He is exceedingly beautiful if we do not first believe that He is glad. It must be the foundation of our theology: our God is a God who smiles.
God's heart is infinitely glad in the fellowship of the Trinity. Jesus perpetually rejoices before the Father. He describes Himself at Creation, saying, "Then I was beside Him as a master craftsman; and I was daily His delight, rejoicing always before Him" (Prov. 8:30). In this passage, Jesus, who is the personification of wisdom, was at the right hand of God the Father. In His wisdom, He possessed overflowing delight and gladness while He created. The Scripture says God creates not out of duty or boredom but out of His pleasure (Rev. 4:11). A great ocean of delight resides within His personality. This is the God that holds us in His gaze and the God we gaze upon and behold. And He is, above all, glad.
If at the center of your theology is a God who smiles, then it's not hard to understand this next truth about Him: He is smiling at you as you respond to Him in willing obedience. His infinite smile extends over His creation. He is delighted in Himself and in the overflow of that delight, but He especially enjoys humans who respond to the grace He offered freely in Christ Jesus. This applies to each of us individually and uniquely. God has affection and enjoyment for you even at your weakest point. "For the Lord takes pleasure in His people; He will beautify the humble with salvation" (Ps. 149:4).
He actually enjoys you! What a powerful concept! Not only does He smile, but He smiles when He looks at you! Most people struggle to imagine this because they never quite grasp the first premise: that He is a smiling God. They only perceive a God who frowns with disappointment most of the time. When they hear that He is smiling and rejoicing over them, it's like the words mean nothing to them. The truth goes right over their heads. They can't reconcile this with their picture of a dour Deity who turns His eyes on them and scowls.
In Proverbs 8:31 Jesus describes Himself as One rejoicing in the inhabited world and experiencing delight in the sons of men. Though His delight in us is so clearly stated in Scripture, we find ourselves like the prodigal son who was confused by his father's overwhelming delight: we stand at a distance, not knowing how to receive it. It's more logical and comfortable for us to bring our list of failures and then plead for a low position in His kingdom. Yet instead of negotiating with us, He embraces us with unabashed affection and covers us with the royal robe of righteousness. He celebrates you or me as His child and throws a party in our honor. This is the God we serve. This is who He is regardless of what we do.
Around the throne of God is an atmosphere saturated with gladness and rejoicing. The closer you get to the Person of God, the more gladness you experience. King David, the great theologian of the pleasure of God, described this joyful environment around God's Throne in one of his songs. "Honor and majesty are before Him; strength and gladness are in His place" (1 Chron. 16:27). He testified first of God's majesty and power and then of the gladness that surrounds the throne. In His presence is fullness of joy. Happiness prevails everywhere in heaven. Jesus referred to this joy as being His at creation (Prov. 8:30). David had this incredible revelation that the atmosphere around the throne of God was full of gladness. His heart overflowed when he cried, "In Your presence is fullness of joy; at Your right hand are pleasures forevermore" (Ps. 16:11). He was exclaiming, "Let me tell you about the God I love. He overflows with gladness!"
The One seated on the throne is glad, and all those that stand near Him are swept up in joyful contagion of His gladness. The closer we get to His throne in heaven, the happier we become. Job said that when God was creating the world, the angels, referred to as "the sons of God," were filled with happiness as they sang. They were over-the-top exhilarated (Job 38:7). God even created angels with a capacity for happiness - a phenomenal reality!
In my imagination I can see the Father looking at the Son with a big grin as they planned Creation. I see Jesus smiling and asking, "Well, Father, what kind of servants should we create for My bride?" The Father replies, "Happy servants." So God placed the capacity for happiness in their very design. In Luke 2, these very angels appeared in the heavens to tell people that God had supplied a remedy - a Savior - to bring us back into fellowship with Him. The choirs of heaven and the angels appeared and were almost unable to contain their glee. They said it loud and long, "Hosanna, Glory to God in the highest!" They trumpeted the good news that God was removing the barriers so people could come into one-heart fellowship with Him. This wasn't a one-time celebration but a lifestyle of heaven being revealed for a moment to citizens of Earth. Jesus tells us there is joy in the presence of the angels when one sinner repents (Luke 15:10). They shout, "This is wonderful! Another one! Let's celebrate." And this type of joy goes on and on, and will continue forever.
What kind of God would put happiness at the very core of the servants of the house? Only a God who is happy Himself. If God were always angry, surely His servants would always be angry. If God were vengeful, surely His servants would be a vengeful army, not a singing choir that suddenly appears in the heavens. Angels have happy hearts because God has a happy heart.
And the angels aren't the only ones. In my mind's eye I can see the elders who sit before Him falling to worship as they are caught up in awe with gladness before God's throne (Rev. 11:16). I imagine that one day I'll get to approach one of them and inquire, "Excuse me, I know you are worshiping, but I want to know one thing: how are you feeling?" I imagine he will rise and respond, "The closer we get to the throne, the more joy we feel! The more we see of Him, the more delight we experience! It's fantastic! I can't get enough."
In God's presence, around His throne is the fullness of joy, and one day we will witness it for ourselves! The angels in His presence are full of joy. The elders are overcome with bliss. Jesus, at the right hand of the Father, brims and overflows with happiness. The Father loves His kingdom, His angels, and His people! He is a happy God!
And - wonder of wonders - God calls us to partake of this joy. In Psalm 36:8 David says to God the Father, "You give them drink from the river of Your pleasures." By giving us drink, David means God shares the pleasure of His Being with us. There is simply no greater pleasure than when God reveals God to the human spirit. It happens now on Earth to a certain degree, for those of us who are His children, and it will happen in heaven in exponentially greater measure. When we see Him face to face we will voluntarily rejoice.
It's not as if we will enter heaven and receive an injection of laughing gas. That's not how it works. Smiling in heaven is not required - it's inevitable. There are no happy robots. Happiness is the province of people who choose of their own free will to enter into it. We'll see something (and Someone) that makes us extraordinarily glad. We will marvel at the streets of gold, the incredible opulence of our surroundings in that heavenly city. We will feel things that far surpass what we have felt before. If you and I could be instantly transported to the throne of God, we would be shocked by the happiness that would overcome us. We would experience a combination of overwhelming terror of God's majesty and an overflowing happiness. We would cry, "More! But I can't take more! Too much! Never enough! It's so intense, I can't stand it! Oh, but I want more!"
This doctrine of God's gladness isn't a theological curiosity meant to entertain us. It is foundational to helping our hearts grow into spiritual maturity. Deuteronomy 28:47-48 says, "Because you did not serve the Lord your God with joy and gladness of heart, for the abundance of everything, therefore you shall serve your enemies."
When we enter into God's joy and gladness, the door to much of Satan's activity slams shut in our lives. The joy of serving God keeps us from compromise. A glad heart is a strong heart. The Bible says the joy of the Lord is our strength (Nehemiah 8:10). And don't get the wrong idea about the above verse from Deuteronomy. God is not acting out of spite. He's not pouting and saying, "I was glad and you would not enter into My gladness, so forget it. You're going to serve your enemies. Now you're really going to hurt." Rather, He is laying out the only two options that exist. Either we enter into His gladness with whole hearts, or we will eventually come under the influence of the enemy, giving in to his accusations, becoming offended at God.
As the dominos fall after we are offended, we end up serving the lies of the enemy instead of living beneath the truths of God. We see God as different than He is. We imbibe false notions about Him. We give ear to the whispers of the devil that malign His character. If we continue to agree with the enemy, he easily leads us into compromise and darkness. It happens to believers and nonbelievers alike.
The antidote is to live in the reality of God's joy and gladness. That's how the End-Time Church will be empowered, set apart, and strong. Psalm 2:11 illustrates this principle with a wonderful picture. In the time of the End-Time judgments, God says, "Kiss the Son, lest He be angry, and you perish in the way." If we don't kiss the Son, meaning enter into intimacy with Him, we will eventually fall prey to an accusing spirit against God because of His judgments. Don't you see the enemy's tactic? He tries to align us with himself and bring us into opposition to the Lord by unleashing accusations against Him. If we accept the enemy's logic, it brings God's wrath upon us. Intimacy with God is the only divine plan we have for avoiding this. God does not give us the option to live in the gray zone. We will be people who are lovesick and glad before our God, or we will become angry with Him, especially in light of the intensity of His End-Time judgments. There will not be a middle ground.
Unfortunately, accusation against the character of God is lodged in the hearts of people within the body of Christ all over the earth. We believe a network of lies about God's personality. We have drunk Satan's accusations and slander against God and drawn a false picture of God. We approach the Father feeling that He is deeply grieved or angry with us because of our immaturity. We believe this because, contrary to Scripture, we think He possesses no gladness in His being. This false view of God will lead us directly into the enemy's camp. But God has gone out of His way to rescue us. The blood of Christ is our free pass into the gladness of God. Jesus died not out of anger or exasperation, but to make a way for us to enter into the Father's gladness. The Lord wants to dislodge every false accusation in our hearts against the truth of His personality.
He would have us experience His happy heart so our hearts might be realigned, transformed, strengthened, matured and renewed.
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