“I’m not sure why you keep holding onto your faith. It doesn’t seem to make you happy.”
My head snapped up in shock. “Really?”
This conversation occurred a few months ago with someone close to me. After meditating on it a while, I came to an interesting conclusion: He was right. My faith doesn’t make me happy. And, honestly, I don’t think it’s supposed to.
I’m pretty sure Joel Osteen just sputtered into his morning cup of orange juice. But seriously…
I don’t follow Jesus to be happy. If I wanted to be happy, I’d go buy a new handbag at the mall. Or take myself out to lunch at my favorite Indian restaurant. Or move to Bora Bora. Jesus told his disciples that “in this world, you will have trouble.” Trouble?! Not exactly on my happiness radar.
I can understand the confusion. When I was growing up, I was taught that living for Jesus makes one happy. Christians are supposed to be smiling, upbeat people all the time. The doctrine was crammed down my throat until I gagged on it. But here’s the kicker of the decade: it. wasn’t. scriptural.
Now I think someone else is sputtering.
But seriously, there is not one single scripture in all of the Bible that says putting one’s faith in Christ brings happiness. Not. one. In fact, the words “happy” and “happiness” appear a combined total of only 29 times in all of scripture, which includes gems like Psalm 137:9:
Happy is the one who seizes your infants and dashes them against the rocks.
Oh, yeah: infant head bashing. That’s a real recipe for happiness right there. (Hey, it’s in the Bible, folks!)
So here’s the next logical question: If following Jesus doesn’t make me happy–as in the bubbly, giggly, skipping-down-the-beach-in-carefree-bliss scene–then why do I do it? Well, I’ll tell you…
As I’ve said before, I accepted Christ at 5 years old. My kindergarten teacher (at a Baptist school) stood before the class one day and told us about Jesus. She said Jesus had died for our sins, and that if we accepted him, he would always be with us. That sounded really good to me. So I bowed my head and prayed, and I immediately felt his presence with me.
Through all the bad times in my life (and there were plenty), I continued to sense Jesus by my side. At the times when I was most alone, broken and hopeless, I heard his voice. When ministers tried to manipulate or discourage me with heretical teachings, he would say, “Don’t follow them.” When I saw fellow Christians gossiping and hating each other, he whispered, “That’s not me.” When people abused me, he loved me. When friends betrayed me, he lifted me up. The only reason I’m here and breathing right now is because of him.
Someone else once said to me, “Some people just need a crutch to get through life.” But my faith isn’t a crutch, either. Truth is, crutches are temporary. With time, a person can learn to walk without them. My faith has become my legs, my heartbeat, the breath in my lungs. It is the source of my life–my daily eternal life. Without it, I don’t live at all, let alone walk.
Happiness? That’s what I’ll have when this new creature finally arrives home (Matthew 25:21). When Jesus can finally wipe away every tear from these eyes. Try as I might, I just can’t get totally comfortable here. Faith kind of has that affect on people. So no, I don’t expect to be “happy” anytime soon. But I’ve got something much better than happiness: the Friend who walks closer than a brother.