What Are You So Happy About?
Have you ever felt like asking a Christian, “What are you so happy about?” Those who don’t share the same faith sometimes find Christians annoying.
This is understandable.
The Christian caricature has his head in the clouds. He is too heavenly minded to be any earthly good. He smiles and sings, seemingly oblivious to the suffering around him.
Does he not know that this world is a dark place? Does he not know how horrible people can be? Has he not seen the evil of human trafficking? Is he blind to the injustice of cancer? For what reason can he continue to smile when the world is caving in?
I was reminded of what upholds the Christian’s countenance this past Thanksgiving during a time home with family. I remembered that a Christian smile comes not from happiness, but joy.
A virus crept into the household and took turns ravaging the stomachs of my wife and children. First it took out my wife and child. Then it targeted my other children. It was only a matter of time before I contracted the 24-hour bug, leaving me severely dehydrated and sore from the waist down.
I caught it a few days before a scheduled international flight and went man-down. After helping take care of the sick for several days, my own bout of suffering had arrived.
I spent the day in bed, miserable. There was nothing to be happy about. But as I lay shivering, back aching and fully clothed under thick covers, I felt joy.
Despite being sick, there was no place I would rather have been. I was home, with family during Thanksgiving. I found joy in knowing my suffering would eventually end, and I would celebrate the season with the ones I love most.
Joy is the inner-peace promised to those who allow God to work in their lives. It is lasting and unaffected by external factors. Joy can remain through times of pain and suffering; it is the deep fulfillment that comes from knowing God’s purposes work together for good.
In Surprised by Joy, C. S. Lewis describes joy as “an unsatisfied desire which is itself more desirable than any other satisfaction.”
The joy-filled Christian has a desire for God, to know him and be close to him, to study his word and to walk in his ways. God is infinite; we can never know him fully in this life, but we can get close. The desire for him will never be satisfied, and when we desire the desire, we find our joy.
The Christian has his eye on the clouds, but his mind is laboring on the ground. His hope is in an eternal heaven, but he acknowledges his role on earth. He sings songs of praise, but his heart breaks for suffering and the broken.
He knows this is a dark place. But he also knows one day all suffering will end, and we will celebrate an eternity in the peace of a new world to come where redemption, justice, and love abound.
The world gives us plenty of reason to be sad. But the promise of eternal life is enough to fill the heart with joy.
The Apostle Paul exhorts us:
“Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (NIV, Philippians 4:4-7).
The Christian is not oblivious to the world around him, he simply chooses to carry his joy around the world.
Photo Credit: Kristina_Servant / CC
About Jason B. Ladd
Jason is an author, speaker, Marine, and father of seven. He has flown the F/A-18 Hornet as a Marine Aviation Weapons and Tactics Squadron 1 (MAWTS-1) Instructor Pilot and the F-16 as an Instructor Pilot. His award-winning book One of the Few: A Marine Fighter Pilot’s Reconnaissance of the Christian Worldview has been optioned for film adaptation. He is represented by Julie Gwinn of The Seymour Agency.