Tuesday, February 22, 2005

Tough Happiness

Read Psalm 25

There are some folks who maintain that, when I preach, I talk too much about how "tough it is to be a Christian." Their premise, apparently, is that by doing so, I am implying that Christians cannot be happy. I guess for me it is not an either-or situation, rather a both-and circumstance.

It is tough to be a Christian in today's culture. In a culture that emphasizes individual growth, wealth, and success, we are asked to focus less on ourselves and more on God, who has given us everything we have. In a society where youth and vitality are the reigning icons, we are called to sacrifice our time, our energy, our very selves in service to others. In a world built on instant messaging, we are asked to take the time to listen to the other person; in a time of 30-second sound bites, we are encouraged to spend time in silence; in a time when TV shows and movies get louder and louder, we strain for that still, small voice of God.

But does this mean we cannot be happy? I don't think that's the case. Look at the lined face of Mother Theresa - have you seen a more contented picture than this one of a woman who spent her whole life serving the poor and rejected of the world? Look at the laughter in the eyes of Henri Nouwen and see the joy of one who committed his every moment to being fully present to God and to everyone he met. Remember what Paul says about being able to rejoice in the worst of circumstances, not because of a false sense of happiness, but out of that deep understanding that God is with the lonely and the afflicted, that God's love is constant and enduring, that the troubles of our hearts are relieved when they are placed in God's heart.

(c) 2005 Thom M. Shuman

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