Sunday, October 16, 2011

06.09.11 Make Me Happy!

I once attended a gathering of women who were discussing the issue of contentment. Many women were struggling to find contentment in their current situations and, instead, felt discouraged or disappointed about their lot at the time. Themes like "I deserve more than this" and "God made me to fit a role different than this" quickly arose. One friend, a graduate of a very prestigious university, shared her frustration (and shock) at not being able to get a job worthy of her degree; instead, she was making minimum wage in a bakery. Another young woman expressed dismay at still being single, when her heart's desire was to be a wife and mother.

As I was listening to these stories, I felt the Holy Spirit whisper a truth to me: I know you are worth more than what you are currently receiving in life. I know how I designed you and what you are made for. But if I gave you everything your heart desired, and fulfilled your every dream, then you wouldn't depend on me. You wouldn't desire ME. And, more than anything else, your worth is found in me. I designed you to be satisfied in me.
Sadly, I have discovered that it is our tendency, as privileged Christians in the West, to simply believe that God wants us to be happy. We quickly claim the rights we [feel we] have, based on "God's design" or our own wants and preferences. If we are unhappy, dissatisfied, or discontent, then it is because we aren't doing or receiving what is our rightful due.

But is this the biblical testimony to God's intentions for us? I recall that Moses didn't think he was designed for the job that God gave him, for he had "never been eloquent" but was "slow of speech and slow of tongue." God didn't appreciate that excuse, replying "Who has made man’s mouth? Or who makes him mute or deaf, or seeing or blind? Is it not I, the LORD? Now then go, and I, even I, will be with your mouth, and teach you what you are to say." (Exodus 4:10-12) Even after Moses was roped into his calling, he was pretty unhappy about it, often complaining to God about his situation. Yet God never relieved him of his duties. Moses spent his entire life leading a massive group of rebellious, ungrateful people, and he died without entering the Promised Land. Do we not think that Moses felt, once or twice, that he "deserved more"?

Can we imagine the apostle Paul, who endured 39 lashes (5 separate times), was three times beaten with rods, once was stoned, three times was shipwrecked, who faced dangers from all sides, who experienced many sleepless nights, hunger and thirst, often went without food, suffered in the cold and exposed to the elements (see his second letter to the Corinthians, chapter 11 for a fuller list of his trials) - can we imagine Paul declaring, "I am an exceptionally well educated, respected teacher of the Hebrew Law and an upstanding Roman citizen. I am a righteous and gifted man in the sight of God. God didn't make me so great only to make me undergo such hardship."

Oh, friends, we have forgotten that God's ultimate plan is not to secure our happiness but rather to make us holy.*

I'm not saying that God doesn't want us to be happy. But our happiness should not - it cannot - rest on what we get or what we do. Because those things are merely gifts, the extra benefits of adoption into God's family, the above and beyond icing on the completely satisfying cake of God's unmerited grace. We too easily forget that we already possess every spiritual blessing in Christ and that our identity has been fully recreated and redeemed and belongs to him. We have no right to anything and yet God, through Jesus, has given us everything.

If you are currently unhappy, dissatisfied, or discontent with your situation, it is NOT because God put you in the wrong place, has forgotten his design of you, or wishes you ill. In fact, quite the opposite is true. God knows exactly what you need and how to accomplish his good purpose in you.

The question is - will you resist him, confident in your opinion of what should be, or surrender to him, in faith? If you actually want to be happy, then the choice should be clear.

*I owe Gary Thomas credit for this idea - more fully explored in his book Sacred Marriage

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