Tuesday, May 7, 2013

A Veneer of Happiness

I am convinced it is a grave error to tell people, "Come to Christ and you will not have any more problems. Or at least any serious problems." This flies in the face of what Scripture tells us about the Christian life (John 16:33; Acts 14:22; 1 Peter 4:12,13). It not only sets people up for major struggles of faith when things do not turn out that way, but provides a degree of superficiality to the Christian life. It cannot only lead people to abandon the faith, but it can at least lead those who remain to be afraid of honestly admitting their struggles. It can also make them intolerant of the struggles of others. ("Why can't people seem to get it together?")

Now the Scripture does speak of joy and peace. But it is joy and peace based on something. The kind of joy and peace that can often coexist with heartache and struggle. There is joy and peace in God and who He is (1 John 1:3,4; Philippians 4:4; Psalms 105:3) There is joy and peace in salvation (Philippians 3:3; Romans 5:2; 1 Peter 1:8). There is joy and peace in prayer, not that prayer will always be answered the way we want, but that we can entrust all our worries and cares to God (Philippians 4:6,7; 1 Peter 5:7; John 16:24).  There is joy in the fellowship of other believers (1 Corinthians 12:26; Philemon 1:7; 2 Timothy 1:4) There is rejoicing in God's purposes being accomplished in the lives of others (2 John 1:4; 1 Thessalonians 2:19; Philippians 2:2). And most strange of all, there is rejoicing in our troubles, because we know there is a hope that goes beyond our troubles (Matthew 5:12; James 1:2-4; Romans 5:3-5). Now none of this sounds like one big happiness pill that anesthetizes us to all the problems in the world. Much less is it a promise that we will have no serious problems. Rather, we are to see this joy and peace as interwoven with the real pains and sorrows of life. Even the perfect Man felt sorrow at the things He encountered and endured in this life (Matthew 26:37,38; John 11:35; Luke 19:41-44).

But if we adopt the kind of superficial spirituality which denies all troubles, we will find it hard to be honest with others and ourselves about our real problems. We will also find it difficult to minister to those who are going through struggles. And we can fail to carry out the Scriptural commands to minister to those who are suffering (Romans 12:15; James 5:13-18; Hebrews 12:12,13). We live in a world under sin and a curse, in which there is real evil. As Christians, we have reasons to rejoice in the midst of these difficulties. But to put on a mask and pretend the problems do not exist only hinders our walk with God and our ability to minister to others. 

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