Holiness vs Happiness??

Dan Miller —  January 31, 2011 — 37 Comments

Dan, Sometimes I think we focus too much on career and not enough on holiness..  I am happy to just have a job…period…all these career cruises, etc. seem extravagant…especially when we are just trying to have a roof over our head and food to eat. It seems to me that the rich can go on cruises and vacations and seminars to find their “calling” but when do we acknowledge the Lord and thank him even for our basic needs being met? God is MUCH more concerned with our holiness than our happiness.  –  Michelle


Interesting perspective.  I’m thrilled we don’t have to choose either holiness or happiness – personally, I want both.  The dictionary defines “holiness” as being spiritually pure and “happiness” as being characterized by contentment and joy. Will people be drawn to what we are sharing if we are holy but not happy?

We know misery loves company but it doesn’t call people to higher levels of success – or holiness.  I encourage you to wear your blessings well.  Don’t apologize for having success in all areas of your life.  If you are disturbed by being disliked by other people you will have a hard time being blessed.  Because as you experience success and happiness you will be criticized and pulled down by those who are holy but not happy.

True friends will cheer you on when you get that promotion, start your own business, buy that Mercedes and make your first million.  If your friends are making you feel guilty for being successful, get some new friends.  Don’t let anyone make you apologize for having peace, joy and blessings in your life.

Yes, thank God for helping us meet our basic needs.  And then open your arms to the opportunities that are dropped on our doorstep every day as a result of being a “child of the King.”  In Psalm 35:27 it says the Lord takes pleasure in the prosperity of His servant.

Are you giving the Lord pleasure today or making Him weep with pity?

  • http://coffeehousepilgrim.wordpress.com Cody

    This is a great issue to address and I personally like the perspective of pastor & theologian John Piper. He’s known for saying that God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in Him; he calls this view ‘Christian Hedonism.’ Basically, in God is endless joy and we should vigorously seek out that holy joy. There is joy in doing the work he created us to do and it almost sounds like Michelle is saying that you have to be rich to seek it out (forgive me if I misread that). We just need to make sure that we do not replace our devotion to Jesus with a search for work. Our work should flow out of our relationship with the Father. And yes, we must be thankful; our entire lives must be soaked through with gratitude. Fortunately, I believe we can be thankful for and joyful in our work at the same time. Great post, Dan!

  • John Farrar

    While I agree with false holiness there are some issues anyone using the Bible as a guide would be compelled to consider.
    * we are admonished “labor not to be rich” … perhaps the goal of having more than someone else rather than having what we want/need would be a consideration there
    * we are told in Prov. 30 “make me neither rich or poor” and the reasons are given. (NOTE: It does not give us the right to judge the rich or poor and to judge someone because they are rich or poor is a wrong interpretation of this passage)
    * we are told to seek first the kingdom of God. During a season of my life there were some business assoicates of my who thought ‘gain’ was godliness.
    … now with all that said, again I agree if you have riches and choose to buy an expensive car or home that is your decision and not a wrong one. After all there were also those who said, “Lord, Lord, have we not done many mighty works in thy name” and he said he never knew them. Having money or not having money will change your relationship with most men but it won’t change your relationship with God. On the other hand a personal relationship with God will change your relationship with money. :)

  • Wendy

    “Wear your blessings well.”

    That is a new “Dan-ism” for me to repeat. =)

  • http://levittcoaching.com Josh Levitt

    Great issue to tackle, Dan. Thanks! I personally get into ruts where I want to think like Michelle – “I’m just supposed to tough it out and focus on (fill in the blank spiritual activity here).” That’s just church-ing up your laziness and self pity.

    Cody’s John Piper reference is great too. It makes me think of several books by John Eldridge – Wild at Heart, Epic, Desire. We’re made by God in His image to do great things. There’s an adventure out there to be had, enemies to defeat and someone to rescue. Your job search/career is a huge part of that adventure. If we sit back and ONLY be thankful for what’s “given” to us, there’s no fulfilling our calling.

    You really can have both in this case. That’s how great our God is.

  • http://www.leadtoimpact.com Bernard

    This was a good post. I want both (holiness and happiness). I believe we can live holy and be happy at the same time. I have encountered my share of people that claim to be holy, but are living miserable lives. I believe what turns people off is when we talk about being holy, but are not experiencing happiness in our lives. I have not met anyone that does not desire some happiness in their life. I agree we should thank God for all of blessings, but also anticipate the opportunities that will open to us as we trust and obey His directions.



  • http://www.thebootstrapcoach.com Josh Bulloc

    If someone wanted to complain to me about not having the money to go to a seminar I would tell them they have enough money to get a book at the library.

    Josh Bulloc
    Kansas City, MO
    How can I help?

  • Lazar

    I find it interesting that:

    1. The title of the discussion is Holy vs. Happy, but all the comments equate happiness with material riches.

    2. Only John Farrar seems to use the Bible to support his statements.

    If we don’t check what the Bible says on a topic, we are only considering the limited opinion of man.

    So now we have 2 questions:

    1. Is it wrong to be happy?
    2. Does happiness equal material riches?

    While I agree that being happy is not wrong, I disagree that it should be a priority of ours. I don’t find in the Bible that the goal of our life should be happiness. In fact, if we do that, we can easily become selfish, which is contrary to God’s will. How many times have you heard that someone divorced his/her spouse because “I was no longer happy.”? Is that what God calls us to do? God wants us to seek His will first and our heart and focus to be on Him. If we do that, happiness will be a byproduct, but our focus and heart need to be on Him, not our happiness.

    Regarding happiness = riches??? I would have to disagree again. If riches are the goal of our life we will be miserable and no matter how much we accumulate, it will never be enough. Is it wrong to be rich? I don’t think so, but again we have to be careful where our heart and focus is. Money can easily cause is to stray from God and to wrongfully convince us that we don’t need Him. Consider these verses:

    Proverbs 23:4-5
    Do not wear yourself out to get rich;
    do not trust your own cleverness.
    Cast but a glance at riches, and they are gone,
    for they will surely sprout wings
    and fly off to the sky like an eagle

    Luke 3:14
    Then some soldiers asked him, “And what should we do?”
    He replied, “Don’t extort money and don’t accuse people falsely be content with your pay.”

    John 14:15
    If you love me, keep my commands.

    1 Timothy 6:10
    For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil.
    Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.

    Matthew 19:24
    Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle
    than for the rich to enter the kingdom of God.

    Luke 12:34
    For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

    Matthew 6:19-20
    Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy,
    and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven,
    where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal.

    • http://www.48days.com Dan Miller

      Lazar — thanks for your comments. As I said in my blog — I’m thrilled we don’t have to choose either holiness or happiness – personally, I want both. I agree that happiness is a byproduct, but I expect that every day as well.

  • Terry


    I understand what you were saying. I get it!

  • Chris


    Great response to this comment!!!

    True Holiness breeds happiness and success (sometimes in different measures). God is Holy. Does that mean its possible He could be unhappy. Not so.

    Love your work.

    God Bless

  • Wendy

    To support the “happiness” side of Bible research: John 15:11… “I have told you these things so you can have the same joy I have and so that your joy will be the fullest possible joy.” Sounds like He wants us to be HAPPY!

  • http://Www.leatherhelp.com Chris R

    Cody, I also think John Piper has powerful lessons to teach us onthis subject. (start with Desiring God). Lazar.I think your mistaken about happiness in the bible. The command and example of joy as a Christian motivator is all over the bible. Primarily consider Jesus, who for the JOY set before him endured the cross… Which leads me to a final point on this. I just heard a deacription of the difference between living a Theology of Glory vs a Theology of the cross explained by Mark Driscoll in his book Death by Love. It is an excellent pespective on living the cross life of Jesus as the source o our joy in ALL circumstances. I highly reccomend it. Thanks for the important discussion Dan.

  • http://www.jedwardknight.com Skip

    Well said Dan! I seem to recall all the personal development books I’ve read speak to having gratitude and expressing that every day. If we are truly greatful for the blessings we have many more will be given to us.

  • http://www.eddiehudson3.com Eddie Hudson

    Hey Dan,

    Love this blog because I have found true holiness is defined by a grower degree of joy. Living by faith, especially in my own period of transition, even when I think I’m not doing everything I could, God’s reassurance – not his judgment and punishment – shine in my soul like the noon day sun! He reassures me that His plan for me includes my life as it is and that he provides for me. He reassures me that my dream is not “on hold” but “in process.” He reassures me that the work He begun in me will not be completed until the day of Jesus. And with all going on in my development, there is far more reason to smile than to bemoan my life.

  • Autumn

    This really hits home for me as a long term, fearful nurse/employee employed by the religion that raised me. As I was raised in both a legalistic religion and with the paycheck mentality, things have become blurred, scarey and unhappy. As a sign of the times, health insurance, pension, pay, respect and loyalty for “staying one more year” of many are quickly disappearing. Holiness and happiness can absolutely exist in the same person. That is why I am here. I believe with all my heart this is where I need to be to gain my freedom to maintain my holiness and find my happiness rather than live in fear. Best wishes to all.

    • http://www.48Days.net Dan Miller

      Autumn – thanks for your comments. Be assured both holiness and happiness are portable. They don’t depend on our current circumstances. You can find them where you are now and be confident you can have them if you move on.

  • http://warriorsforlife.com eric

    Thanks for the post Dan…

    When it comes to holiness vs. happyness, I reminded of the line in the song on love and marriage where it says “you can’t have one without the other”. No need to volunteer for misery. Scripture says that God supplies us with all things richly to enjoy. The beatitudes, in Matthew 5, all start with happy is the man (kjv says blessed but many translations read “happy”). As long as we honor God with our achievements and not make our achievements our god, He takes joy in that. Many blessings to you and your staff. Continue to go forward in the quest to minimze poverty a

    • http://www.48Days.net Dan Miller

      Eric – yep, I agree that they are difficult to separate. I can’t imagine being really “happy’ without being holy and I can’t imagine being “holy without having an abundance of happiness.

  • cheyenne

    Who is rich? I tell kids I teach that if everyone in their house does not sleep in the same room, then they are rich. The only boy in my house to have his own room was my youngest brother, he had the room all us boys shared, then we moved out.

    The Apostle Paul said he had learned to be content with a little or a lot. I was laid off from a big company over a year ago, and it has been awesome. I made good money doing side jobs and after being unemployed for months ended up with more money in the bank than when I was working. I took a contract job in Corpus Christi Texas and made insane money and had a 4 month honeymoon with my wife there. We loved it and she cried when we had to leave.

    We left when the job ended and I am now in Little Rock and it is not a honeymoon. I have had lots of struggles and I am learning to deal with another very difficult coworker. My pay is not sufficient to maintain my house payment at home, my apartment payment here, and my daughters college dorm payment, along with the many other expenses that come up when you are not home.

    If I were not convinced God has my best interest in mind I would be defeated. I am off today missing a day of pay because we are out of work, but I am excited to see how God will meet our needs. I have done what is in my scope of control. I am available and have the talents the company needs.Jesus waited until Peter had exhausted his faith to catch fish himself before he had Peter cast the net again. Peter still had to cast the net.

    Like Paul in prison, joy has nothing to do with riches. I have some very wealthy friends who live modest lives. Three in particular that you would never know had a dollar to spare. Those three families know it is a blessing from God and that in the end wealth will burn. They are glad to have the ability to bless others. We all know some really miserable rich people who are constantly guarding their money to make sure no one gets it.

  • Larry

    I so often hear people say God is not so concerned with your happiness, but your holiness, or, He’s not as concerned with your comfort as your character. Nice platitudes from some seminary textbook, I say. As I see it, God is like the grandfather playing with his granddaughter. He reaches in his pocket and pulls out a handful of change and holds it out to her. She looks at the coins and carefully picks out the two biggest ones- to her mind the bigger ones are better, being too young to know the values. So she ended up with two quarters….not too bad. But the thing is, he was offering her the whole handful. We so often shortchange ourselves because of the limitations we place on both God and ourselves. God is offering it all to you. Accept it, receive it with joy, and be thankful.

  • KIM

    I fight everyday thinking what I need to do that will make me happy and God proud of me. I am not sure if he is proud of me. I absolutely hate my job and only work there for the pay, I have been soul searching for the past 2 years. It makes me wonder about holiness and happiness. I wish he could just tell me what is my true calling because I sure cant!?

    • http://www.48Days.net Dan Miller

      Kim – I’m afraid you’re compromising your opportunities for both holiness and happiness by staying in a job you hate. Just going to be tough to find either while you’re doing something that you absolutely hate. Create a transition to something else quickly.

  • Larry

    To quote John Eldredge (previously mentioned)in his book, Wild at Heart:
    “If you had permission to do what you really want to do, what would you do? Don’t ask how, that will cut your desire off at the knees. How is never the right question; how is a faithless question. It means ‘unless I can see my way clearly I won’t believe it, won’t venture forth.’

    How is God’s department. He is asking you what. What is written on your heart? What makes you come alive?

    …don’t ask yourself what the world needs, ask yourself what makes you come alive because what the world needs are (people) who have come alive.”

    I have come to firmly believe that your calling is written on your heart. When Psalms 37:4 says He will give you the desires of your heart, I think part of that is that He puts the desire in you, not so much that He fulfills your wishes. If that is the case, then the thing we most desire to do is the thing we were meant, designed, and equipped to do….even though that sometimes requires a little stretching of our comfort zone.

  • Anna

    There may be some confusion over words. contrary to the newer dictionaries, i do not believe joy and happiness are equivalent. Happiness is derived from hap. when something happens to me that i like, then i get happiness. joy, however, is something derived from much deeper, so that it is possible to have great joy when outward circumstances are not what we may happen to want. True joy wells up from the inside and is not dependent on outward circumstances. Many years ago Bill Gothard made this clear to me in his conferences. Joy is a fruit of the Holy Spirit (Gal. 5), whereas happiness is not directly, but may be indirectly.
    Holiness is not an equivalent of goodness or righteousness. Holiness is separation. Separation from the garbage we see all around us.
    Holiness may be reflected in passages such as Psalm 15, Psalm 24, Ezekiel 14 and Isaiah 33. Evil people can be in a sense holy. they are separated unto their pursuit of evil. But I am separated unto God alone!
    There is a reason why the Holy Spirit is called Holy!
    The precise opposite of the word holy is the word profane (Ezekiel 44:24).

    This has been a challenge for me because I cannot work, and continually fight just to stay alive. Each night as I go to sleep I do not know if I will wake up here or in heaven. Living that way, day by day, puts all of life in a totally different perspective. When we leave this world, we cannot carry our suitcases full of gold with us.

    Heidi and Rolland Baker, working today among the poorest of the poor in Mozambique, have been an inspiration to me. Someone finally living the way Jesus did (John 14:12). Food is multiplied to feed the multitudes, the sick are healed of whatever, from blindness to everything else. Even as of a couple of years ago 80 people have been raised from the dead. They have started over 5000 churches. They are some of the richest people I have ever known, but their riches are not measured in bank accounts here on earth, but rather, bank accounts in heaven!

    I mention this example as what excites me so much more than all the riches this world can offer! I remember George Beverly Shea singing “I’d Rather Have Jesus” back in 1952 (a few years ago!). Still one of my favourite songs.

    I will get well of my many devastating ailments so that I can spend 4-8 hours per day worshipping God, (without all of the morphine and dilaudid fogginess!) and then present Jesus in a similar way as the Bakers are today.
    This is what I was designed to do!
    And with God’s help, I will do it!

  • Hunja

    Holy means One. When we say that G-d is Holy, we mean that He is One. His word, action and deed are but one and the same thing but in different forms of expression. When we say that we want to be Holy, we are asking to be one with G-d. Not separate but of the same mind therefore our actions and words should be that of our G-d. In view of that, then joy, happiness, riches and all these things that men run after are a by-product of true holiness. Keep your focus on G-d the creator of heaven and earth and He will give you the desires of your heart after all don’t they all belong to Him?

  • W. Young

    I was just thinking along these lines today. The times I was happiest and most successful in my life was when I knew I was doing God’s will. When in my own strength I try to do what I think is best, I get roadblocks from situations, family or even health. If I ask the Lord to show me what He has for me to do everyday, if in all my ways I acknowledge Him, He will make my paths straight and my joy will increase and so will my success.

    I would have to agree that cruises and vacations and seminars and outlays of money may not be the keys to anything. I believe giving thanks to the Lord and all His providence, seeking Him and His will are the keys.

  • Debbie

    It’s all about the heart. Success is how we live our lives. How much we love God and our fellow man. I believe Jesus is looking for a willing heart. Whosoever will follow Him and obey His word. He owns the cattle on a thousand hills. He has prospered many and will prosper many more christians who will obey Him and trust in His word. God gives prosperity and riches to those who will give back too Him and take care of the lost and needy. There is no shortage of prosperity in heaven. and there is no lack.

  • Gail

    Luke 11:13
    If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children: how much more shall your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to them that ask him?

  • Sandra Cantrell

    At the age of 59 I am still digging out of the hole created from illness, divorce and low self esteem. What a blessing an amount of money would have been to accelerate the process. Was I a holier person for having been a single mom of four that was stressed-out financially, physically and emotionally? Even though I never thought of myself as poor we didn’t have any expendable income. Try explaining that to teenagers. It was my faith that kept me believing in myself and a better future. I kept an open mind to all the ways God brought hope, healing and direction to me. Not for a moment do I believe God wants us to live in sickness, poverty or deprivation. Life is to be lived in abundance and joy with each day filled with gratitude, love, laughter and all the good stuff life has to offer.

    • http://www.48Days.net Dan Miller

      Sandra – it sounds like you weathered some tough challenges. And I think you’re wise to not just embrace being down, but to know God desires for us to rise above that and as you say, live each day with gratitude, love, laughter and all the good stuff life has to offer. May you experience that today!!

  • Ulrick

    When God created Adam and Eve, the pair, they were healthy (physical), happy (mental/emotional), and holy (spiritual). Each of these as you can see was a complement to their unfallen natures.

    In Eden, they had all the elements (good nutritious food, useful work, pure water, vital sunshine, self under the control of the Holy Spirit, fresh air, Sabbath rest and sleep*, and faith in a loving Creator) to support their well-being.

    Though our fore-parents failed and lost their first estate it is still their childrens’ birthright to be healthy, happy and holy though in a somewhat diminished capacity.

    So, I submit that–happy vs holy is a false choice, for from the beginning it was not so. We can indeed pursue holiness and happiness follows as an outgrowth of serving the Master of the Universe. Here in the US we are privileged to have the constitutionally guaranteed inalienable rights of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. When that pursuit manifests itself in a vocation or business pursuit that makes this world a better place happiness is the result.

    • http://www.48Days.net Dan Miller

      Ulrick – very well said. Let’s pursue both.

  • http://www.intentionallegacy.com Randell Mark

    Dan, Fantastic post,
    I must admit that I struggle with this issue myself from time to time, but the fact of the matter is, that I believe as a Christian, I will be happiest, when I’m the holiest. Part of being holy, is living the life God created us to live, and I don’t believe God created us to be miserable in our calling. For me I am happiest when I’m pleasing my creator, and living fully alive using the talents, skills and abilities He created in me. I can’t imagine Him being pleased with me if I’m not doing the work He’s called me to do, and quite frankly I don’t want to disappoint my Lord by not living up to the full potential he designed me for.

    • http://www.48Days.net Dan Miller


      I agree – pursuing holiness inevitably leads to happiness.

  • Trudy

    I read your book “48 Days to the work I love” and it is very inspiring and motivating. I knew before reading it what work I love. I had been experiencing a “divine discontent” about my work although there are a few things about it that I like. I am currently working on a plan to start my own business and I feel optimistic and excited about the future and pursuing my dreams. Ecclesiastes 3:12-13 says, “I know that there is nothing better for people than to be happy and to do good while they live. That each of them may eat and drink, and find satisfaction in all their toil—this is the gift of God.”

  • Trudy

    I am looking for satisfaction in my work and although I am working in a spiritual profession, I sense a need to try my wings and so far, God has confirmed my ability through other people. Whether or not I am able to earn income through this ability, only “trying it to see” and time will tell. Thanks for being an inspiration to me.

  • Rashidah

    Love this article! Thank you for the confirmation, Mr Miller! God has been blessing me and showing me awesome favor in this season of my life. I have encountered some “haters,” especially in the church. At first I did feel ashamed and “dumbed down” my testimony, but No More! In the words of Marianne Williamson: “Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkeness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.” From the book “A Return to Love:Reflections on the Principles of A course in Miracles”