On Being Happy
“Then the LORD God provided a leafy plant and made it grow up over Jonah to give shade for his head to ease his discomfort, and Jonah was very happy about the plant.”
Jonah 4:6 (NIV)
What kind of plant was this? One commentary suggested that it was a castor oil plant, which can reach a height of over 12 feet and has large, shady leaves. God caused its astonishing rapid growth.
This is the only verse in the book of Jonah where we find Jonah a happy man. Before God provided a shade for Jonah, we find him angry, and greatly displeased. After a brief respite under the vine, “at dawn the next day God provided a worm, which chewed the plant so that it withered. When the sun rose, God provided a scorching east wind, and the sun blazed on Jonah’s head so that he grew faint. He wanted to die, and said, ‘It would be better for me to die than to live’” (verses 7-8). When the plant that God caused to grow up over Jonah withered and died, Jonah returned to his unhappiness and even wanted to die. Sometimes happiness can involve suffering—1 Peter 3:14 (NLV) reminds us, “But even if you suffer for doing what is right, you will be happy. Do not be afraid or troubled by what they may do to make it hard for you.”
There is a song entitled Happiness. The chorus goes “Happiness, happiness, the greatest gift that I possess. I thank the Lord that I am blessed with more than my share of happiness.” Everyone wants happiness, but many times our eyes are tinted by physical and worthless things in the pursuit of happiness. In Psalm 119:37 the psalmist wrote, “Turn my eyes away from worthless things; preserve my life according to your word.” It’s more than likely that there are more unhappy people in the world than happy ones.
“Rejoice (be happy) always” (1 Thessalonians 5:16). God wants people to be happy! The Scriptures say “But let those who ·follow [L seek] you be happy and glad. They love you for·saving [delivering] them. May they always say, ‘Praise [Magnify; Great is] the Lord!’” (Psalm 40:16 EXB). This is not easy, not even for believers, but knowing what God has done for us through His Son should give us reason to be happy even in unhappy times.
Almighty God, we thank you for the joy and happiness we have in knowing that your Son, Jesus, died to give us a future, where there will be joys forevermore. In Jesus’ name.
Study by Dennis Payne
Grace Communion International London
Mahatma Gandhi Hall
41 Fitzroy Square
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