Tuesday, June 4, 2013
day 4: doesn't God want me to be happy?
Today's prompt is hard, so I'll start by saying that I'm coming at this trying to figure it out while I'm also trying to communicate what I've learned so far. So...come a short way, with a long way to go. Also this is probably going to be on the longer side...but oh well :) For today's post I had a friend ask me what the Gospels said about happiness. So, this is my attempt to kind of answer that question :)
The world today has made happiness the ultimate end of everything. There is no sacrifice to great as long as you personally are comfortable, safe, pleased, content and, well, happy. Your boss treating you badly? Quit! (You can even put him in his place right before you do.) Marriage not working out? Spouse no longer the "soulmate" you thought they were? Well then quit that too! If you didn't find it this time, you'll find it next time. We live in a world that defines happiness by the circumstances and people we surround ourselves with...and we're taught to believe that trial, hardship, being pushed outside of our comfort zone, and having to work for anything, while sometimes necessary, is the exact opposite of this happiness that we're trying to obtain. We want to be comfortable. This has even leaked into modern cultural Christianity. Churches all over fill their auditoriums because people walk in Sunday mornings wanting to hear that Jesus wants them to be happy above all else, and justify their feeble attempts to get themselves there. We feel entitled to it....after all, don't I have a right to be happy? Doesn't God want me to be?
If this is the kind of happiness you're looking for, then this blog post isn't gonna help much. THIS kind of happiness is never mentioned in the Gospels. In fact, the Gospels don't have much to say about happiness at all. In FACT, they seem to go the opposite way.
"If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated Me first. If you belonged to the world it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you. Remember what I told you, 'a servant is not greater than his master'. If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also...." - John 15:18-20
"I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore be shrewd as snakes and innocent as doves...you will be hated by everyone because of me, but everyone who stands firm in the end will be saved." - Matthew 10:16&22
The happiness the world seeks is fleeting and superficial. It depends on the fulfillment you are able to draw from the circumstances & people that you find yourself in and around. The human soul was not made for this life or this world....it was made for something far greater. True, lasting fulfillment can only be found in the person of Jesus Christ, and this leads to JOY...but not always happiness. The Christian walk is not always "fun" and Christians are not always "happy". The Apostles and the early church faced persecution, torture and even death because of their commitment to a Gospel that they held more important than anything else.
"Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted....Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad,for your reward is great in heaven..." - Matthew 5: 3-4 & 10-12
"So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light, momentary affliction is preparing us for an eternal weight of glory that is beyond all comparison, as we look not to things that are seen but to things that are unseen. For things that are seen are temporary, but things that are unseen are eternal." - 2 Corinthians 4:16-18
The last one was cheating a bit...technically it's not in the Gospels exactly. But I guess this is my encouragement :) For the Christian, joy [for all intents & purposes, let's call it LASTING happiness] is found not in our fleeting environments or circumstances, but in a Savior that is eternal, yet never changes, faithful not to our desires but to His promises, and sovereign over ALL. Jesus didn't die on a cross so you could be happy...He died on a cross so you could be His. So if you're asking about happiness in the Gospels, and you're looking for a verse that reads something along the lines of "Don't worry about what's right, Jesus wants you to be happy!" I'll make it really easy: it's not in there. We are not entitled to happiness. It's not a right that we can demand from God. He doesn't want you to be happy. He wants you to be free. Free from sin, free from death, and free from an eternity separated from Him. And no matter what the world promises, or how wonderful it seems, their agenda is to keep you so focused on the temporary 'happy' of now that you forget to look for the light of the world to come.
Christ leaves us with a promise...that regardless of the pain & sadness His children experience on Earth, the joy and glory of an eternity spent in His presence will so VASTLY eclipse this temporary unhappiness, that everything we've gone to up until now will be worth it. :) There is no happiness in the Gospels, but there is joy. Unending joy.
This was long, and if it made any sense it's a God thing. But I really hope it did :)