[audio m4a="https://courtneypallen.files.wordpress.com/2014/09/05-happy-from-_despicable-me-2_.m4a"][/audio] So I sorta love that Pharrell song. Well, I loved it til my kids wore me out on it, now I can only listen to it occasionally. Anybody else's kids do that? I feel your hand raises and amens.
I was nervous about posting this particular post because people may not agree with me. But I've come to the conclusion that that's ok. Take a deep breath because what I'm about to tell you might blow your mind. It blew mine.
One thing I've learned about God in the last few years is that my happiness is not His top priority. Let me repeat, my happiness is NOT His top priority. (Mind blown)
This was a shocking revelation to me. I had always thought that because God loves me He wants me to be happy. If you listen hard, you can almost hear Joel Osteen in the background. It's like my brain had been programmed like a Disney movie. I think God wants us to be happy as it relates to abundant life. But if being "happy" is leaving us in a comfortable, stagnant place, I don't think he wants that. When I was looking up definitions for the word "life", all of the ones I looked at had one common theme: growth. The definition I found for "abundant" was "plentiful". Plentiful growth. That's why Jesus came. That's what He wants for us more than our happiness. He wants us to experience plenty of growth.
The weird thing is, from my experience, growth doesn't usually come when I'm happy. Growth comes when I'm in the pit. Growth comes when I'm dependent on God. Growth comes when I am acutely aware that my relationship with God is holding me together. And as much as I hate those times, because I do, that's when I feel things the most deeply.
I think I've gotten it wrong for a lot of years. I've always assumed that when Jesus spoke about giving me abundant life it meant giving me all the good stuff. Translation: easy life. Now when I think about it…if He gave me all the good stuff, I would never long for Heaven or Him. And if I didn't long for Heaven, it's because I've made this world my home because it's comfortable here. And if I'm comfortable here, I'm not growing. And if I'm not growing, I'm not experiencing abundant life. And if I'm not experiencing abundant life, I'm missing the whole point of why Jesus came.
That's A LOT of "and ifs".
I think a plentiful life is full of everything--good, bad, and ugly. And if I don't let myself experience all of it, I'm refusing to let God meet me there. Right now, I'm in a season of loneliness. My last little started school this year and it has left me lonely. This was quite unexpected since I was all geared up for feeling sad and WHAM! Loneliness came instead. So much of me wants to try to fill my schedule up so I don't have to feel it. I hate this feeling. But I'm noticing that God is using it to bring me back to Himself; so I can be dependent on Him for my joy, instead of being dependent on distraction so I don't have to feel lonely. (To be clear, I think happiness is a feeling that can change with the wind. For example, "I was happy until that punk cut me off on the interstate. Now I'm angry". I think joy is a feeling of contentment and peace that is connected to your soul. Happiness is surface, joy is not.)
So do I think I'll be happy again? Of course. And it will be richer than it was before. Do I think God wants happiness and good things for me? Yes! It says in 2 Cor. 2:8 "And God is able to bless you abundantly, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work." He wants to bless His kids because He loves His kids. But God also knows that He has to bring us back to Himself for us to experience it fully. And sometimes that can be painful.
In conclusion, don't buy into the fairy tale. Life is not rainbows and kittens. In Hebrews 12:2, it says "…looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God."
Jesus took on the full depth of pain so later He could experience the full depth of joy. I don't believe Jesus was happy on the cross. He was in the darkest place imaginable. He had all the world's sin on Him (past, present, and future) and He was forsaken, or abandoned, by His Father. God couldn't be near to Jesus because of the sin that was on Him. Jesus chose to experience the worst because He knew His Father and trusted that He would work it out for good. And He will do the same for us. He didn't spare His Son from pain, so why would He spare us? But it also turned out pretty great for Jesus so I'm thinking He's got something pretty sweet in store for us too.
So life's not all rainbows and kittens. Oh well. Kittens grow up to be cats anyway and who really likes cats? Apologies to all the readers I lost due to the cat comment. #dogperson