I believe the vast majority of unhappiness and disillusionment among Christians can usually be traced to one common yet thoroughly un-interrogated assumption—happiness comes from getting what we want. While such logic seems sound it’s utterly contradictory to Christian faith because it lead us to think that Jesus is good for saving our souls but his blessings are needed for our happiness. In so doing, we separate the blessings of Christ from the person of Christ.
Most of us would agree that God can change our hearts so that “what we want” is no longer carnal but pure; however, we often still live as though our happiness depends on receiving something we have yet to possess. Though God does bring about a reorientation of our hearts in regard to pleasure, such attainment is not the key to our happiness. Because Christ has taken up residence in our hearts we already have the very source of all we could ever want.
Therefore our relationship with joy is not one of receiving but giving. Jesus plainly told us that an abundant life is the product of a surrendered life (Matt 10:39, 16:25; Mark 8:35; Luke 9:24; and John 12:25). In the economy of God, the one who gives is the one who’s blessed (Acts 20:35).
There is a stifling bondage that comes from living for pleasure, regardless how spiritually we may couch it. Our problem is not a lack of pleasure but exposure to God’s love. The more we encounter God’s love the more we understand it as an invitation to give ourselves away. Why? Because there’s an unspeakably fulfilling reality we discover when we encounter God’s love—it frees us from ourselves by evoking a deep compulsion to give our lives back to him and others.
God’s love has an uncanny way of nurturing a fierce urge to be more than we are by living in a way that’s pleasing to him. So, on our journey of faith, change—not pleasure—is the key to our joy. We truly serve ourselves best when the cry of our heart steadfastly remains, “Change me, change me, change me.” Herein we find that such change is the key to unveiling the mystery of Christian happiness.
Ultimately, we are left with two choices of commitment. Are we committed to Christ or are we committed to pleasure? We must get this right because pleasure is never enough to satisfy our souls, rather it is through surrender that we finally discover the life God has already given us. Next week I introduce the third posture of holy desperation—surrender.
What Do You Think?
Have you struggled with shedding the assumption that happiness comes from getting what we want? What would it look like to trust Jesus not only for salvation but also for happiness?
♦ To see the video and poem this post is based on, click here.