One afternoon, I was driving around town with Jonah and Vivienne when I overheard this conversation happening in the back seat:
Jonah: Jesus wants us to be happy. Jesus loves you, Vivi.
Vivienne: No! He doesn’t love me!
Jonah: Yes he does!
Vivienne: No he doesn’t because I love Mommy and Daddy.
Jonah: Well, I guess Vivi won’t be happy.
This conversation with my favorite little people was interesting on so many levels. But Jonah’s statement made me think.
Does Jesus want us to be happy?
I don’t pretend to know how He feels about our happiness, but I do believe he wants us to be filled with joy.
Does He want our lives to be easy and jolly and carefree?
I don’t think He does. I think He allows situations into our lives so that our faith can be tested and we can learn to rely on Him for everything.
Deuteronomy 8:2 instructs us to “remember how the Lord your God led you through the wilderness for these forty years, humbling you and testing you to prove your character, and to find out whether or not you would obey his commands.”
Jesus may want us to be happy, but more than just happiness, He wants us to be holy.
Several years ago, I went through a process of relinquishing some of the legalism that had begun to weigh me down. I had grown up in church but in so many ways, I thought being a good Christian meant following all the rules:
Go to church – check
Read your Bible – check
Don’t drink too much – check
Sing in the choir – check
Don’t use course or crude language – check
Serve on the women’s ministry team – check
As I went through a grueling process of learning to be authentic, I met so many people who were also striving to be real with others. I became a student of these fellow believers, watching as they shared their struggles and hurts, desires and accomplishments.
It is crucial that we share our struggles, our brokenness, with other believers so they can pray with us and encourage us. It’s important for others to see that we all experience the same stresses and troubles. But in addition to authenticity, we should also strive to be holy.
It’s not enough to be real; we must also strive to be godly. We must seek to follow Christ with all that we are.
It’s a struggle for so many of us. Every day.
We want to be strong and put on a good face so others won’t see our despair.
We want to pretend that we live perfect lives, have perfect jobs, and are raising perfect children.
We don’t want anyone to think we are less than.
Less than patient.
Less than kind.
Less than loved.
Less than put together.
Less than perfect.
Less than enough.
Less than _________. (Just fill in the blank. I’m sure you can think of a multitude of words.)
Being a Christ-follower is not always easy and I tend to want others to see the “perfect” me. But in reality, there is no “perfect” me, only a woman who is striving to live her life in a way that is pleasing to God.
Friends, the only way we are able to draw near to the Lord is by opening our hearts to Him, communicating to Him through prayer and the reading of His Word, striving to live the way He leads, and trusting Him as He leads us through times of testing and endurance.
I want to live a joy-filled life, not just a happy life. A holy life that points others to a Savior beyond our wildest imaginations.