I'm sure you've seen the endless posters and social media posts about being happy. They say things like "enjoy life", "surround yourself with positive people", "don't be so serious all the time", "do what makes you happy", "follow your heart", "live your dreams". I could go on, but you get the picture. This is one of those things that really bothers me. Not because I'm a grumpy miserable person who doesn't like the happy things in life. My problem is because those sayings are so misleading and can bring unnecessary guilt.
As Christians, our purpose on earth is NOT to pursue happiness. It's not about doing things to make a happy life for ourselves and our families. Our purpose should be about striving for holiness and making Christ's name known to everyone we encounter. The command to proclaim the gospel is serious...it's life or death...for all eternity. We must speak boldly about what eternity will be like for those who reject Christ. When we speak the truth of God's Word into our lost world we will experience persecutions, harassment and negative responses. Those will not be happy times for us. They will be difficult and challenging but we must press on.
We have to get out into the world if we're going to win the world. We must put aside our agenda and plans and dreams. We need to surrender all of it to Christ and ask Him to guide our steps each day. Our hearts are deceitful and cannot be trusted. They will mislead us if we choose to follow them instead of Christ. The default of our hearts will be to avoid difficulty and seek what feels good.
There are so many circumstances in life that you must endure that no happiness can be found. And that's ok. You don't have to feel guilty when your heart is broken over a rebellious child or the betrayal of a friend. You don't have to try to find the silver lining in the stories of sexually abused girls who become moms at age 12. You don't have to find the good in the countless children going to bed hungry right in our own communities.
There is nothing happy about cancer or the unexpected death of a 1 month old. There is no happiness in divorce or helping someone battle an addiction. Where is the happiness when teenagers are sharing stories about their friend who was shot and killed by a gang?
When your eyes are opened to the realities, pain and heartbreak of this world then the ignorant bliss with which you once lived is gone. Life becomes more serious. You no longer focus on the frivolous things as if they are the priorities in life. You look at life in light of eternity.
Our world is full of broken and hurting people who don't need to be told "just be happy" or
"life is too short to be anything but happy". As followers of Christ we need to meet them right in the middle of their mess and show them Jesus. They need to hear the gospel, how He came to save them and give them joy not happiness as they walk through the journey of life.
Stop telling me to just be happy and love life. I refuse to walk blindly through life oblivious to the pain and suffering of others. I choose to immerse myself in living life with the eyes, heart and mind of Christ.
My husband and I have been very selective in who we encourage our teenagers to seek out for godly counsel. We want them to have mentors who love God and love them. Mentors that listen to them, pray with them and encourage them to follow God's Word. Mentors who challenge them to strive for holiness in every area of their lives. We have been blessed to have some amazing people who have come alongside us and have poured such great godly counsel into our lives and the lives of our children.
But right now, I'm struggling with the news that my teenagers have been given what I see as ungodly counsel. This counsel did not come from any of the amazing people that are a part of our group of godly mentors. But it did come from other Christian adults.
And now I have to decide what to do. "How do you respond when your teenager is given ungodly counsel?" Counsel that goes against what you and your husband have strong convictions about based on God's Word. Counsel that encourages your teenager to throw out their own convictions. Counsel that could damage their testimony and future.
I don't have all the answers just yet. However, this situation has been a great reminder to me that I cannot slack off in the training and discipling of my children. I need to continue teaching them the truths of the Bible and look for ways to apply them daily. They have to know the truth so they can spot the false teachers and ungodly counsel.
It has also served as a huge confirmation to me of the importance of knowing who is giving counsel to your children. It doesn't matter whether they are 11 or almost 19, you have to know. And sometimes you have to make the difficult choices to remove certain people from your child's sphere of influence.
As I write this, my prayer is that God would put a hedge of protection around the hearts and minds of my children as they continue to grow in the strength and knowledge of the Lord. And that He would give me wisdom and discernment to do what is necessary to protect them from ungodly counsel....especially when it comes from those who claim to care.
How would you respond if your child was given ungodly counsel? I'd love to know!!
As I was looking for quotes for social media posts for work last week, I came across this one:
It's not really a quote.....it's a small excerpt from Richard Stearns book "The Hole in our Gospel". I love the message in this excerpt. It really makes you stop and think about your own life. What is that you possess that God wants you to use to serve him?
The other night while making dinner, my husband made a joking comment about opening a restaurant. Now you have to understand that my husband is an amazing cook and he cooks lots of great Hispanic dishes. But when he said that, this quote came to mind.
For us, right now, we use our cooking to serve Christ in a unique way. We are the host home for some players from a local minor league baseball team. This year we have had 3 players from the Dominican Republic. Of course, they love my husband's cooking. It makes them feel like they are home.
Each night after the game we serve them a huge plate of Hispanic food and spend a little time talking with them about life and baseball. We don't have a large house but we share what we have with them. When they arrive we tell them to make themselves at home. ".Mi casa es tu casa".
We don't consider ourselves to be special people or more godly than anyone else. We have just chosen to use what God has given us to serve him in a unique way. For us that is cooking for Latino athletes.
What is it for you? What has God given you that at first glance may not seem very useful? What in your life could be used to serve Christ in a unique way?
JD states, "Seeing the glory of God revealed in the gospel gives us freedom from both sin and religion. The gospel sets us free from the threat of condemnation and changes our hearts so that we want to know and serve God." When we truly understand what Christ has freed us from then we'll want to serve Him with our money, time and talents. We will love God and hate sin. We'll joyfully do whatever He tells us to do because His approval and presence are all we need.
Our Christianity will cease to be a "to-do" list of ways to get on God's good side. We'll no longer bounce between pride and despair over what we have or have not done to make God love us more. The gospel is based solely on what Christ has done for us. We are no longer burdened by adhering to a list of laws.
"The grace of God extended to us at the cross should blow our minds. We 'stand amazed in the presence of Jesus the Nazarene, and wonder how He could love me, a sinner condemned unclean.' There is no way to understand what Jesus did for you, on a heart level, and not be radically changed. Grace changes wee-little-stingy sinners into saints of magnificent generosity"
The grace of the gospel completely transforms us into kind, generous, loving people. It opens the eyes of our heart to see the beauty of what God has done for us. We see the world around us with the eyes of compassion and not judgment. We wake up each day rejoicing in the freedom to love others, to meet the needs of others and to show others how they can experience life-changing freedom in Christ.
There really is no other way to experience true freedom except through the grace of the gospel. No amount of material wealth, power or prestige can satisfy our hearts like Christ's presence. We can follow a list of rules and make ourselves look the part of a Christian but we won't experience the freedom that Christ wants us to have.
Look at the Pharisees. They were the most righteous men who followed all the laws. They gave away lots of money, were always at prayer meeting, kept the Sabbath and were quite zealous in their obedience. "But they were also bitter, resentful, dissatisfied, and self-focused. And they hated Jesus Christ" They never knew the transforming power of the grace of the gospel.
And if I'm honest, sometimes when I look in the mirror, I look a lot like a Pharisee. I find myself going through my "Christian checklist" and evaluating my standing before God. I listen to Satan as he points out my faults and failures. In those moments I must remember that Jesus says, "You are My beloved child. I am well pleased in you. Now live that way."
The Gospel Prayer
In Christ, there is nothing I can do that would make You love me more, and nothing I have done that makes You love me less.
Your presence and approval are all I need for everlasting joy
As You have been to me, so I will be to others.
As I pray, I'll measure Your compassion by the cross and Your power by the resurrection.
I am a Christian, a wife, a mom, a VBS crafter, a coupon clipper, a thrift store shopper, a football fan, a cook, a student of the Bible and an avid reader.