I was sitting at a stop light a couple of days ago with Emmie, and the two kids, in their car seats, in the back seat. I glanced to my left, and there was a large church on the corner with a marquee on their sign. You know how some churches will have the week’s sermon topic on their sign, or some thought-provoking quote? Well, this is what theirs said:
The Christian life yields happiness.
I actually almost sat through the entire green light trying to comprehend what they were saying. Were they serious? Was it a ploy to get you to come hear more, because what bill of goods were they trying to sell up in that house???
Let me please just set the record straight: The Christian life does NOT yield happiness. At the end of the day, the Christian life is still life. There is still pain and heartbreak, suffering and challenge, sadness and despair. If you were hoping for a way out of all that, I’m sorry (SO sorry) to tell you it doesn’t exist.
“So why bother?” you might be thinking.
I think it’s more about having Someone bigger than yourself to cling to. It’s about admitting that you don’t have all the answers (or any of them, really), and that you don’t possess the ability to save yourself from yourself. I think it’s about wanting more, and submitting to being refined so that you can be the best version of yourself – the one you were created to be.
Submitting to anything leaves a terrible taste in the mouth of our über-independent society, but when I looked at the two kiddos that were in the backseat that day, I saw something very telling. They were fortunate to be born to two parents who love them very much, but they aren’t happy all the time. They get disciplined. They receive direction all day long, as they are molded into adulthood, but they don’t live in a bubble. They aren’t spared from the pain of life, yet, they aren’t alone. They have an anchor in their storms, and the overriding knowledge that they are deeply loved and cherished, which provides a peace that gets them through.
But what about the children who are in the system? The ones waiting for families? They are not beholden to the direction of any parents that hold a claim on them, but most would willingly submit themselves to some because they want to be more than what they are. They want to belong…to be loved…to be saved.
There is hope in the Christian life. There is hope that, through the refining fire of human life, God will tenderly hold us through it, bringing us out the other side as the purest, best version of ourselves. He will never leave us alone, and will love us deeply through every necessary discipline, so we will grow and mature. We will have an eternity of belonging, being loved…saved from our very selves.
The Christian life may not yield happiness, which is so fleeting, but it does yield deep joy and peace beyond understanding.
And, that right there ain’t a bill of goods. You can take it to the bank, or better yet, to a prominently placed marquee!
“And I will put this third into the fire, and refine them as one refines silver, and test them as gold is tested. They will call upon my name, and I will answer them. I will say, ‘They are my people’; and they will say, ‘The Lord is my God.’” Zechariah 13:9 ESV
“And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you.” 1 Peter 5:10 ESV
“But he knows the way that I take; when he has tried me, I shall come out as gold.” Job 23:10 ESV
“Be strong. Take courage. Don’t be intimidated. Don’t give them a second thought because God, your God, is striding ahead of you. He’s right there with you. He won’t let you down; he won’t leave you.” Deuteronomy 31:6 MSG