Yesterday I had the privilege of spending lunch celebrating birthdays with some wonderful friends from church. Before the luncheon, I dropped off at a local store to buy birthday cards. As I was sifting through the many options available I found this one.
After my heart regained its skipped beat and a hermeneutical defibrillator brought me out of biblical cardiac arrest I whipped out my iPhone to document the occurrence.
God promised happiness where? Can you show me chapter and verse? I’d like to know because there are believers all over the world who risk their lives by just being Christians and they’d probably like to know about that verse that says God promises happiness, especially the next time someone they care about is hauled off by the police and tortured just being a Christ-follower.
Happiness? Really? A promise?
I love people being happy: happy in love, happy in their work, happy in their relationships. But God does not promise happiness in any of these areas. Do you think Hosea was happy the day he was told to go buy Gomer back from the slave blocks? Do you think Paul was happy that day they stoned him dead?
No, I don’t think so. Content. Yes. Joyful. Absolutely, but not happy! It is a heresy of the western brand of Christianity that assumes God wants us happy. Sometimes the best thing for us is to not be happy. If you’re treating your spouse like garbage or are neglecting spiritual disciplines you should be unhappy and unsatisfied. If there is sin which has not been confessed or past broken relationships which have not been dealt with, people should be unhappy. The flip of that is also true in that sometimes being unhappy is the greatest possible good. If I forfeit happiness in my life so that someone I love and care about can benefit, then this brings me joy or fulfillment even if happiness is lost. I spent a lot of time this morning working through the Old Testament book of Job. Not exactly a happy man, that Job. Yet, he is filled with integrity and useful to the Lord and, I might add, in his great grief and distress he learns about himself and the nature of the world. By not being happy, he grows as a person.
So do you and me, sometimes.
I find this card and this kind of thinking anathema.