It’s elusive, fought for and paid for, but what if we’re looking for the wrong thing?
I’m talking about happiness. It’s seen as a right, an end goal; but the more I’ve thought about it, the more I wonder whether in pursuing happiness we’re missing out on something else.
Because the thing is, as christians we aren’t promised happiness.
We are promised joy and hope, that we will never be abandoned – but we aren’t promised happiness.
In fact throughout scripture, we seem to be promised the opposite! We are told that we will face persecution, that there will be tears and suffering and hardship. We aren’t promised a happy ending this side of heaven.
So what’s the point?
In a world where we are promised happiness through self-improvement, the right medication, a better diet or exercise regime, the gospel promises something different altogether.
The Gospel promises that we are loved, can be forgiven, can be free from the tyranny of our own desires, it promises that what we go through now will pale into shadows compared to the hope that is coming.
It can sound like a glib get out clause, because sometimes the life of faith is hard, but the reality is that scriptures which promise hope after pain aren’t undermining suffering, but pointing us to a hope so great we can’t really conceive of it this side of heaven.
In Romans 8, Paul talks about the contrast between the present pain and further glory; and he doesn’t pull punches.
“I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. 19 For the creation waits in eager expectation for the children of God to be revealed. 20 For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope 21 that[h] the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God…26 In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans.
He doesn’t promise present happiness, but future glory.
From someone else, I might be tempted to roll my eyes, but Paul knows the suffering he’s talking about. He wrote from prison cells, with an ever present thorn in his side. He knew about pain – and it’s why I trust the words he speaks about hope.
Jesus didn’t promise happiness either; He promised life and life to the full when it’s lived with Him.