Bet you wouldn’t have seen this coming, according to a study by Ed Diener of the University of Illinois and Shigehiro Ioshi of the University of Virginia “discovered that people from every corner of the globe rated happiness as being more important than other highly desirable personal outcomes, such as having meaning in life, becoming rich and getting into heaven.” (quoted from Psychology Today July/August 2013 pp 52 – 59)
We really have become such a glib society. Our life is wrapped up in fifteen second sound bytes, slogans, mottoes, quick fixes, pop a pill. We are superficial, frankly straight out phoney. We say things like love, happiness, we really don’t know what either means, we assign our own personal meaning that is glib, superficial, phoney and then we wonder why we can’t find love, we just aren’t happy. Did you ever think that your own personal definition of these terms is uninformed, unfounded, based on nothing but your own petty, superficial notions and not on reality? And because you think that of course you are the captain of your own ship, the master of your own fate, then you should determine what “happiness” is, what “love” is and well that’s reality.
Of course we are all adults, we are going to make up our own minds, but when are we going to start doing it in a smart, informed, thoughtful, way that truly thinks about the bigger things in life and of course the biggest? I am a Christian pastor, I have a great testimony about how God led me and guided me. This wasn’t based on what I “liked”, didn’t “like”, if I felt “good”, “bad”. It was clear what was going on. Not some subjective feeling, but I can objectively lead anyone who is interested through the sequence. And yes, that would be for anyone, but again, we are Americans, the master of our own destiny, captains of our own ship. I served in the Coast Guard reserve for 29 years, I have over 1700 hours of underway time on 41 foot, 44 foot and 47 foot boats as well as time on a cutter and a USNS ship. I think I know a little about being a captain (albeit very little), but a captain of a ship for a 41 footer to a 900 plus foot USNS vessel knows what he’s doing. He/she sure doesn’t make it up, doesn’t go by her/his feelings, help me out here, why in the wide, wide world of sports would you trust your soul, your eternal destiny to your feelings, what makes you “happy”, what’s good/bad?
I’m not going to end here, but in case I begin to lose you, I want you to promise me that you will take one thing away from this, PRAY, just PRAY. Can you do that? Can you just sit and stop and forget all your subjective “happiness” and superficial bupkus and really lay it on the line with God? Can you, can you really? Can you for once just stop and forget what everyone else thinks, what nonsense someone told you in high school or worse some pretentious bore in college (ya, ya I know, look who’s talking about being pretentious). But we listen to way too many people who are just as uninformed and superficial as we are, but we buy their prattle. Hey I could go on and on about baseball, but my actual on field experience you could fit into a thimble. Sort of that way when we talk about being a Christian. “Well I think…”, “Well I feel…” Sound familiar and of course the usual glib cliches that have no foundation in reality in any way shape or manner, but we still buy it because it sounds “nice” (yea another one of those words. “Well all roads lead to heaven” – ah no, they don’t. Show me where you are getting this. God just wants us to be happy (I say with my cheesey Joel Osteen accent). Where oh where does anyone see this, where is this written? Oh yeah it’s not. God’s love is not a pampering love, it is a perfecting love. God makes us perfect in Jesus. Am I Jim Driskell “perfect”, not to the human eye, but I am to God’s eye, because He sees me in Jesus, I am in Jesus’ perfection, not mine. Why? Because Jim Driskell will never, ever, not in a million, billion, septzillion years be perfect, and neither will you be, mi amigo. God is perfect, holy, all knowing and when we decided to do it our way and shove God out, and He allowed us to go, and then we wonder why everything is a mess, why we aren’t “happy”, why we don’t “like” things, why nobody “loves” us. (You ever notice that most people don’t even know how they want to be “loved”, they just want to be????) “We’re all God’s children.” No we’re not, we are certainly His creation, but only those who are in Christ are adopted children, new creations, the new man in the spirit, saved in Christ, then you are a child of God. Then my all time favorite “God helps those who help themselves”, this is usually said in a very patronizing way by people who don’t know what they’re talking about, but they think they do. When challenged to find that quote in the Bible they can’t, why? It’s not there, it’s a quote from Benjamin Franklin, not known by any stretch of the imagination for his theological acumen.
Ok, God is also merciful and loving, He is, but He’s also serious, righteous and just. Maybe He has in His omnipotence (all powerful) He has some way to save people outside of Jesus. I know one thing for sure in Jesus I am saved and God is the One who does it all and I can follow His much smarter, much more creative way, then any human being, or do it myself. I’m going with the sure bet, in Christ I’m saved and as an adopted child of God, He will make my life more of an adventure then I could ever imagine, He already has.
Back to my article: “Recent scholarship documenting the unique habits of those who are happiest in life … activities that lead us to feel uncertainty, discomfort and even a dash of guilt are associated with some of the most memorable and enjoyable experiences of people’s lives. Happy people, it seems, engage in a wide range of counter-intuitive habits that seem, well, downright unhappy.” (p 52).
Uh-huh. As has been stated, I am not perfect. In Jesus I am perfect. In myself? Ya, right. So there are times where there’s probably more then a “dash of guilt”. OK, I’m not going to belabor it, but suffice to say that becoming a Christian instantly turns you into some kind of perfect, goody two-shoes, is total nonsense. I’m sure there are those in the congregation that I pastor who wish I was a little more that way, but none of us are and that’s probably one way the church has been shooting itself in the foot for years, but trying to get people to believe that the pastor is perfect, beyond any possibility of only the tiniest/venal sins.
But I wanted to camp on the “uncertainty, discomfort” aspect. As much as I’d like to tell you that being a Christian means just being in lock-step certainty, perfectly aligned with every good thing, and having no doubt whatsoever in life, hey I’m a Christian that means everything just proceeds hunkey-dorey. Yeah, forgive me a moment while I suppress a giggle. Yea a quick read of the Bible will show that there were plenty of people described who were not always the most morally scrupulous. King David was called a “man after God’s own heart”, but boy did he ever step over the line a few times. The Christian life is all about uncertainty, discomfort, stretching boundaries, pushing the envelope, being completely counter-intuitive. Trusting in the unseen is completely counter-intuitive, totally outside any person’s comfort zone and so hence, what really does push us, challenge us, fulfill us, make us happy.
Look at St Paul, St Peter, St John, any of the disciples, Christians all through history, Christians in Asian countries and Muslim countries today. There is anything but what we would think of as “happiness”, but there is this joy, this certainty of being in Jesus, being His and that their life is an adventure by any standard. We are pushed to live our life out for Jesus, and to do it in ways that we would often never imagine.
“Truly happy people seem to have an intuitive grasp of the fact that sustained happiness is not just about doing things that you like. It also requires growth and adventuring beyond the boundaries of your comfort zone. Happy people, are, simply put, curious.” (p 53)
I’ve been the pastor of an inner-city church for three years now. OK, that doesn’t make me an expert, but I do see and what I see in the midst of a lot of poverty is this lack of curiosity, of adventure, of going beyond the comfort zone. They’ve been part of this little group, clique, gang, that has told them what to do, how to conform. Right, wrong, indifferent, they don’t care, that’s where they are and where they’ll stay. It’s not limited to low-income, but it’s much more obvious. But hey we’ve seen people at all strata of society, we crave our little thrills; booze, drugs, sex, eating, the big event, and we think “wow this is living” and then when the thrill wears off, or the hangover materializes, we sit there and whine and cry how much life stinks, why does God do this to me? OK, other then the obvious “you did it to yourself, God doesn’t want you snorting cocaine at at Ludicrous concert (and yea I probably did spell it wrong). Yea, it’s fun while you’re there and then not so much the next day; wasted money, brain cells and time, but we think that’s what makes us happy. Or people especially the ones I see, think that happiness is not having to work, watching television all day, trying to wheddle money out of people and booze and sex, and the funny part is that they think they’re being clever about it, because that’s what everyone does and it may actually seem that way. I’m not trying to pick on people, but it is what it is, it’s not everyone to be sure, but it’s certainly at least a representative number. Regardless, the human condition is to stay comfortable, to resist being pushed, not to stretch our boundaries and then wonder why we’re unhappy.
The Christian life has always been a challenge, it’s not me and my gang, it’s me and my God. I certainly have brothers and sisters in Christ and we are all there for each other, but in the end I will be standing before the judgment seat all by myself, but clothed in the righteousness of Jesus. None of the gang will be there, no self-righteous know it all who’s smarter then everyone, just me and so long as I’m in Christ I am saved in Him.
In the meantime, as His disciple and a disciple is a student and a teacher, I am constantly being pushed, being challenged, being put in front of those who the Holy Spirit wants me to present Christ to. To live a life that exemplifies faith in Him, check out my FaceBook or LinkedIn pages, they don’t even tell half the story, my life hasn’t been boring and I know who has guided me where I’ve been. I’m not smart enough to do what I’ve done, He is more than smart enough and He’s put me on a life that is truly an adventure, not sitting around like most people in the world whining and complaining “why does life stink? why does everyone pick on me?” You can tell people who are in the world, they are by far the biggest whiners. There may be plenty of times when I’m not happy about my current situation. But unlike those in the world who will just whine about it, I know that some how, some way, the Holy Spirit is going to be picking me up by the scruff of the neck and pointing me in a new direction.
Despite my sarcasm and maybe snarkiness, I really do feel for those who stubbornly resist the Holy Spirit and stay in the dead world. The tough guys who say “being a Christian is for the weak, I can handle it, I don’t need anyone.” And then you ask them what makes you so tough? A beer can, a joint? What can you really handle? And most of the time I see a little realization sort of cross their face, but too often they manage to fight it off and slip back into their weakness and corruption, because dead people have no strength and they just continue to rot, and back to their whining, “why does everything stink? Why is everyone against me?” It really is sad and I see it over and over again.
The adventure is in Christ, moving out of your comfort zone into the reality of Christ, picking up the armour of God and doing battle against the evil, malicious forces of the world is where it’s at. As I said in the beginning, pray, just pray, find somewhere and get comfortable and start raising all these things up to God, get out a notebook and start writing these things done, be led by God who truly does love you, who truly does want what is best for you and then get in on the adventure and away from the death, destruction and ugliness of the world.