I have always loved the artist’s work depicting Jesus with a smile, laughing, obviously joyous while on earth. I’ve also realized the seriousness of interacting with The One Who alone has every right to be called Master, Lord as well as Savior and Best Friend.
He Who IS and best DEMONSTRATED Love is not simply our buddy, a “Whatever!” sort of person we can blow off when we think Him unworthy of our illustrious, amazing self.
Yet He is actually mentioned in The Bible as the happiest person ever. More on that in a moment.
The last half of Niebuhr’s Serenity Prayer is well known. Here’s the second half less quoted:
“Living one day at a time,
Enjoying one moment at a time,
Accepting hardship as a pathway to peace,
Taking, as Jesus did,
This sinful world as it is,
Not as I would have it,
Trusting that You will make all things right,
If I surrender to Your will,
So that I may be reasonably happy in this life,
And supremely happy with You forever in the next.”
Lots to ponder and much I could discuss but to shorten and focus this post please note:
“So that I may be reasonably happy in this life”
Which means exactly what? What did he or should we consider to be reasonably happy in the here and now?
See, as many have wisely said, either rejecting any faith that God exists, that He is a good and trustworthy God Who has walked the earth as “a man of sorrows, well acquainted with grief” who fully understands (far beyond us) the pain, horrors and miseries on this planet, we so often judge Him as vindictive, harsh, if not the celestial bully “who ought to come down and make things right, fix things as WE want them to be”, all this is not uncommon judgement towards God. Many do think of Him as the supreme “fun cop”. And we get ticked that we don’t get to command Him cuz it’s the other way around. Further, He either set things up as the often terrible, tragic mess they are or at least allowed/allows them to be such. So…
Why would anyone want to trust much less follow Him?
Nobody else qualifies whether in our minds, emotions and stresses, obvious injustices visited upon us in this life, nobody else qualifies as GOD, not anywhere close to Him, that’s one reason.
Who have you known for a lifetime who is flawless, perfect, truly loves you and yet calls you out on your own nonsense on any regular basis? Brutal honesty is that we often consider the consistently loyal (and non-challenging) “wing-man/woman” our Best friend/s because in large part they don’t tell us much of what we don’t want to hear. That’s not the sort of God Who IS Love and Who demonstrates love and Who calls us to love Him as well as our neighbor as our self. Note, “as yourself”, so self-love is part of His core command. Now how does that work out in our everyday, some of which can be truly awful?
Honeymoons are regularly AMAZING and SWEET! And they end. That’s true of any place you live, work, serve, any job, church, social club, fill-in-the-blanks and the honeymoon will end. Then what?
Nobody is fully protected from every/all sorts of temptation, harm, even natural disasters. Some people on some occasions have clearly been delivered from the worst (we often use the term “miracle’ for that) but study the martyrs and you’ll see that God apparently allowed “fun” to take a hike in the most profound sense. No denying this will change historical, biblical facts.
Hebrews chapter eleven lists a number of faithful believers who suffered some of the worst torture and ultimate murder. Was God at fault, deficient, mean because sinful, selfish, demonized people who carried out such atrocities did so, were allowed such power? He is sovereign but human free will is as apparent as can be. Deny that if you wish but either the theological logic is shot full of holes, your perspective on God includes a judgment that He is the ultimate dualist -condemning sin as well as sinners who had nothing to do with their sinfulness.
These are the deep matters of life. So when the honeymoon is over, the fun ceases, now what? Old age, illness, accidents, devastating acts of nature happen -where is God?
“I will never leave you nor forsake you.” “In the world you shall have tribulation, but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.” “Because I live you shall live also.”
The fact is that we love our own lives more than Him. We wish to write our own script and suffering isn’t part of the story. We may indeed create fiction but it’s the story we like best.
Fun isn’t always within our ability to grasp nor keep, at least not every moment or immediately when we want it. That’s a fact.
Until and unless we learn to give thanks to Him for all the truly good things, the beneficial stuff, the provision, the daily “we don’t really pay attention to” blessings, we are in the practical, not seeking nor honoring Him but rather little false deities sitting on paper-thin thrones that are sure to disintegrate at some point during our life time on earth.
“For God has given us all things richly to enjoy”. Sound like He’s a “fun cop” in that?
“In Him we live, and move and have our being”. In my experience of faith, that is a fact whether we give Him glory, seek His face, through our trust on Him or simply “curse God and die” when the spigot on the joy-rides seems quite shut.
That Niebuhr line about “pie in the sky” coming “in the next” life may be tossed by some of my readers as a useless cop out. Understood. I have another response: might the truth be that we are the “God cops”? What about that cop-out? And our qualifications for the position are…??! “If God exists He’ll do things my way!” eats us alive. Believe me, I’ve been there.
About Jesus being the happiest ever? Hebrews 1.9 “”YOU HAVE LOVED RIGHTEOUSNESS AND HATED LAWLESSNESS; THEREFORE GOD, YOUR GOD, HAS ANOINTED YOU WITH THE OIL OF GLADNESS ABOVE YOUR COMPANIONS.”
The longer I live the more I give thanks, praise and worship by my thoughts, words, actions and in relationships. When the sun shines and the rain falls I give thanks because I am convinced the One Who holds the world in His hands is faithful and true… and the reality is that nobody on earth is as faithful and true as Jesus.
Oh the fun comes and it comes in many ways at both expected and unexpected moments! I give Him thanks for a LOT of fun in my own life! The pain, rain, stain of a broken, fallen, often estranged-from-Him world is not always fun. The finest honeymoons give way to the everyday work, the commonplace, even at times very difficult and yep, boring (I cannot much relate to that but I get that others do) life we experience in this world.
He is above it all and beyond it all but has absolutely lived it with us in the Son of God.
His Spirit is my daily Source. Fun? Yes! Non-stop or “fun on demand”? Nah. I know that’s a fiction and the Lord and His Word is Truth. I live in relationship to Him and others by that Truth. The rest will all pass as it should.
I know The Designer’s design beats mine every time- fun or not.
Take slow thought on every point raised in that quote from the Serenity Prayer above and you’ll face the “why” of fun being transient but God, His will, peace and real serenity attainable even in this broken and often tragic world.
Things to consider along the journey!
As always, thanks for stopping by. -Glenn who ain’t nearly as stoic as some might think:)