Friday, November 14, 2014

Happy All the Time?

I remember different times in my life when I heard people say that Christians are always supposed to be happy all the time, or at least give the appearance of being happy. The rational behind this was the desire to "keep a good testimony." In other words, it was to make those outside of the faith think that, because we had Jesus, we never got down or discouraged. This was an attempt to show that Christianity "worked" and was worth trying. There are still those who preach that today, as well as those who preach that if anything negative happens to you, it is nothing but an attack from satan and can be thwarted by positive thinking and speaking. Neither of these ways of thinking match up with what Scripture tells us.

All through the Bible, there are instances where God's people mourned and lamented. There was mourning for their sins, and there were lamentations when bad things happened. The Psalms are full of prayers that are cries to God for help in trouble and tragedy. I can't recall any passages in Scripture that command us to be happy all the time. What you do see are warnings that we will suffer, that life is not going to be a walk down a tree lined lane into heaven. Look at the people Jesus hung out with. They were folks who had a hard life, who were the downtrodden and oppressed. Jesus never told them to put on a happy face because following him made your life problem free. He never told them to make positive pronouncements that would make them better. In fact, Jesus told those who wanted to follow him that they had to give up everything and die in order to follow him. Honestly, giving up my desires, my wishes, my life, is hard. It doesn't always make me a smiling, happy person. Sometimes I do it with a frown and a grumble.

The idea that we need to put on a happy face as a good testimony is also wrong. We do a disservice to the cause of Christ when we give the impression that Jesus makes everything peachy. We are afraid to show grief because we are supposed to believe. We are afraid to get angry because our life is supposed to be wonderful. We ask each other how we are doing, and then don't give an honest answer because we don't want folks to think that we're not trusting God. So, we tell everyone that our lives are wonderful, while families fall apart, faith is shattered, and lives go down the tubes. And then we say, "I never knew. They seemed so happy." It is not the presence of a smiling face and assertions that everything is great that testifies to the grace and glory of God. It is when we are able to say through the pain and the tears, "I believe God is good. I don't know why this has happened, and I hurt, but I know my Father cares for me." A smiling face can hide deep despair, while asserting trust in God through tears shows a depth that can only come from the Spirit.

When we are open about our pain and heartache, we open the door to comfort from those who have been through similar things. We come to see that we are not alone. This helps us to see that our Father really is in control and really does love us. This can bring deep, abiding joy. It is this joy that shows that following Jesus is worth it.

Maybe you are going through some tough things right now, and your pain is more than you can bear. God knows. He experienced imaginable grief at the cross. Don't be afraid to let your hurt show. Be honest to the Father about how you are feeling. Find some brothers or sisters that you can be open and vulnerable with. Let God use them to bring you comfort and grace. We are children of a good, loving, perfect Father and we are on this journey together. Take the masks off. Don't be afraid.

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