by Marilyn Ehle
“(Jesus said) Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you…I am coming to you now…so that they may have the full measure of my joy within them.” (Read John 17)
Friends are about to set off for a cross-country journey and I say, “I’ll be praying that have a good trip.” Our friend responds, “Oh, don’t worry. We always have a good trip. After all, God wants to keep his children happy.”
As the door closes and they leave our presence, his words lay heavy on my heart. Is it true? Does “God want to keep his children happy”? Modern dictionaries define a happy person as one who is fortunate or successful. In the Bible, however, when the word happy is used, it primarily means blessed as in Jesus’ words, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, those who mourn, those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,” etc. This gives a nuance to the word that we do not usually consider.
Did the Apostle Paul pray for our interpretation of happiness for his friends, many of whom were suffering? “I keep asking God…to give you wisdom…so you may know him better.” And “This is my prayer: that your love may abound…” And “…we have not stopped praying, asking God to fill you with the knowledge of his will…”
If I am not happy, has God removed his hand of blessing and protection? Carol is slowly recovering from deep grief after her husband’s long and painful battle with cancer and subsequent death. She smiles – but through tears. Happy? No, but at peace.
Terry is making slow but steady progress after long and dangerous surgery. Her pain has been unimaginable. Did God fail his promises? Is he punishing her? Others would not call her situation happy, but she is deeply aware of God’s presence and love.
Simone Weil wrote, “Joy is the sweetness of contact with the love of God.” Dear friend, God has far deeper purposes in our lives than happiness. Jesus promised to leave us his peace and joy. Nothing less.
Father, I am so very tempted to look for fleeting happiness as evidence of your presence. But then I look at Jesus’ life and see one sure of your love, your acceptance and your plan for his life. And he was blessed. May I walk in that same kind of blessing.
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