Why happiness isn't the point: a look at suffering


Holidays are always an interesting thing. For us, its happiness surged to the max, and its filled with a lot of laughing, a lot of that feeling of " I belong here" and a lot of general just good things.
And when we come back,  we realize how exhausted we are, and we become introverted for a few weeks until we come alive again.

Normally, during this introverted time, and in general, in the winter-I get kinda gloomy. Life seems a little less awesome. After the 'high' of the holidays comes the 'low' of the reality of cold winter for the next 4 months (okay, 7...) This was my norm. But, surprisingly this hasn't happened yet. At first I assumed it was because we were having an unusually warm winter and I think it might be in part due to that, but I don't really think so. I think God's doin' something.

Happiness is something kind of mysterious to me. Recently I had a conversation with an individual who believes that God's main objective is for the happiness of His children and His entire theology is built on that. I would say that, 6 months ago, I might have agreed. While, I think this sounds nice, really nice actually...I don't necessarily see that in the New testament. I did a little search of the word 'happy' in the Bible, and it does come up, but only 10 times. 5 of which are in the Psalms, and the 5 other  prior and none are talking about God wanting us to be happy.

Now I'm not saying God doesn't enjoy us being happy, I think He delights when His children are-but I don't think that's His ultimate objective. I think His Glory is His ultimate objective...the pursuit of happiness, is always that. A pursuit; And I think there are better things for Christians to pursue. This has actually come kind of hard for me. So, I hope its not sounding as if I'm immune to this idea. Especially because for the past many years, I have based my relationship with Christ on how Happy He made me, to the point I would fake it. But what does the christian do in depression? What do we do when we aren't happy? What do we do when our emotions are not positive, and we don't see Him blessing, but all we see is suffering? What if prosperity isn't happening in our lives.  Is God no longer valid? These are the questions that were happening in my heart. My theology was breaking down on itself, and I had to either say God is not who He is and thus decide not to believe, or say I don't have the right view of Him. I chose the latter, and these past 6 months have changed me.

If I embrace this to be true, this idea that God's goal isn't my happiness, then this changes some things.

First of all, it forces me to reconcile this idea of suffering. What do we do with it? As I looked through the Old and New Testament, I see its not always bad, in fact it often is intentional and always results to bring God Glory.  This has been the hardest part. This idea, (that seems to reoccur numerous times in the Bible) that suffering is used for good is one that I would in honesty rather skip over. Before I believed when I experience suffering in my life (which is intentionally stated 'when' not 'if,') I would begin to question God. I would think to myself, "How could this be? Doesn't God love me? Isn't God good?!" But, God has not once promised to keep me out of suffering. In fact, He's promised me that this whole Christian deal comes with suffering, following Him often means persecution as all the First Christians would attest to that. Suffering is part of the deal.

If this is true..what does it mean? It means that I've reached this point in my faith where I have to willing to accept the fact that God loves me, and God is good, and all the other attributes I've known of Him are still true, even when I suffer. God is for us, not against us. Always. I no longer can attach an attribute to the ultimatum "Do this, or I won't believe." I no longer say "If you were good, then you'd heal my mom." or "If you were all powerful, you would fix this situation in my family's life." "If you really were in control you'd make this stop.  No. God is good. Period. God is in control. Always. God is who He says He is, no matter my perception of the situation.  And while healing, and fixing  and removing pain are things that God is readily able to do. God's glory is the point, always. and often times through extreme suffering God's ultimate glory is shown (Case in Point: Jesus.)

God has chosen the best plan and we are living. And that also includes all this stuff.

This is hard to reconcile. But,  with this truth, all of a sudden, I realize that the outcome of my life can be redefined. I once would say "I'll be content with my life if this and this and this occur." And I believed that God HAD to, was REQUIRED to do that for me. He wants good things for me, and I had defined what is good. Pain was not included. But what happened is that what I had defined as good wasn't happening, and pain is happening. While I think God delights in giving blessings to his Children (as I can attest to for hours,) His objectives are not only blessings for His Children. A parent doesn't exist for the child. The child is the joy to the parent. We are here for His Glory.

That has given me a lot of change in heart. I realize that for most of my life, even the parts that I feel were not full of accomplishment, and were full of suffering I do see God bringing about His Glory. And I realize, through even what I used to deem 'failure,' God has and will bring deep Glory from it. And if this is my purpose, and if this is what I choose to focus my life on then all of a sudden life is a joy. And coincidentally, I find myself filled with peace,( which sometimes will lead to the emotional feeling of happiness.)

Realizing that God doesn't have to take me out of suffering, but God will use it, and never leaves me in my dark times, or when I lose what I love; that gives me Hope. It also gives me a sigh of relief. Being able to reconcile the fact that God is good always  Period. And that suffering isn't beyond him, but he actually uses it-while it blows my mind, (and I certainly don't have this figured all out, I'm a baby yet, and still struggle with it), it's so much more beautiful than the idea that He can't control it. That its just one big 'oops.' That when babies die, and when my family suffers, and when I feel we're being wrongly accused, and when friends are in deep pain, God is there. And God is using it somehow to bring ultimate goodness. Its crazy, but its truth.

So, this season has been joyful. While my life, and these next few years aren't necessarily going exactly according to what I previously planned, I see God's work, and I see His Glory. Which for the rest of eternity that's what I will be focusing on.

I hope those that are going through the blues of winter, and suffering realize that God never wastes pain. He is Good. He loves you. And any other individual involved, just as much. God is in complete control and is somehow using every situation for His glory. One verse that is so beautiful to me is Genesis 50:20. After Joseph had been abandoned by his brothers, sold into slavery, wrongly accused of essentially raping his boss's wife, being forgot and left in chains, He rises to power in Egypt and faces His brothers who started all the suffering he experienced.  In famine, and he says to them:

"20 You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives."

And He loves on his brothers.  Its so beautiful. There is no situation that God doesn't work to good.

That's been on my heart lately. I hope ya'll are encouraged and see God and His Glory and rest in the truth that God isn't letting us go. He is for us, he loves us, and He is good.

Over and Out.

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