On my way to an early morning church meeting some years ago, realizing I was 20 minutes early, I pulled off the traffic-jammed El Camino Real, found a place to park on a side street, and turned off the engine. I then sat back to think of the busyness of the day ahead of me.
Suddenly, a man about 35 years old burst out of the front door of his small house on the other side of the street, with his two little sons, like little ducklings, trailing after him. All three were laughing and playing together.
The man appeared to be on his way to work, and was obviously in a hurry, probably to catch a bus, since I saw no car. Still, he stopped and picked up his children, gave them both a big kiss, and then set them down again. They giggled in delight. He turned and continued on, but they wouldn’t give up and ran after him. He stopped a second time, scooped them up in his arms one at a time, gave them another little twirl, a few more kisses, and set them down again. The boys were now laughing hysterically. The father had the biggest smile on his face—a face radiating pure joy.
It was apparent that he had little materially. The home was very small and relatively run down, but still well-kept. I’m sure he had plenty of problems to face each day, but the simple happiness I saw that morning was far more than anything I witnessed the rest of the day as pastor of a wealthy church in an enviable neighborhood.
Following my tedious meeting, I returned to work among some more of the most prosperous and comfortable people in the San Francisco Bay Area. But nowhere in any of those situations did I witness the joy I had seen earlier that morning. Many other things happened that same day and year, but this is the one event above all others that stands out most clearly. So why did this snapshot of spontaneous, uncontrived happiness from some thirty years ago lodge itself in my memory?
It was the image of sheer, spontaneous joy that never left. Isn’t that what we all want? It must be, for we strive for it in a hundred different ways. We seek it as we do the finest gold, beautiful homes, or the highest positions. We work to accumulate wealth to find it, spend our money in search of it, destroy our health, or even go so far as to break up a marriage and family (ours or someone else’s), imagining that we’ll gain happiness for ourselves. Yet, it remains as elusive as Nessie, Scotland’s famed Loch Ness monster, or the legendary Bigfoot of the California mountains.
And when we think we’ve found happiness, like sand falling through our fingers, it vanishes as quickly as it appears. Or, soon after we make a “happiness touchdown,” the goalposts are moved another five or ten yards farther away. But happiness isn’t the norm anywhere, nor has it ever been.
This fact doesn’t keep us from imagining that happiness is some type of heaven-given right, something that’s owed to us. But it’s not what we deserve, any more than we deserve health or wealth. We can’t manufacture it, scheme or plot to achieve it, or buy it. Those options have all been tried.
God has so arranged things so that this much-envied quality of life—the kind of lasting joy that reaches the inner core of a person—is available only as a gift from his hands. He gives it to whomever he chooses, and he loves to grant his gift in abundance to those who come to him in trust and ask. Happiness is the byproduct of his kingdom, rooted in his character and the perfect joy he, his Son, and his Spirit share together in loving harmony.
Believers have no reason to remain silent or timid about being Christian, afraid of offending those who think differently. We are the “stewards of the mysteries of God” (1 Corinthians 4:1 KJV), we have the medicine that heals, the light that illuminates, and the antidote to the spiritual and psychological darkness that seems to be sweeping over the world. If you have the ability to cure someone, why wouldn’t you? You’d really have to hate the person not to want to share with them the life-giving message found only in the Bible.
Since faith in Christ has changed the lives of people in the past, let’s attempt to lead others into a life of fulfillment, purpose, and joy—finding a way to stop a negative narrative in their lives, and leading them into God’s blazing, glorious, healing light.
Now that we can meet with others, invite someone to church or extend a time of prayer or fellowship with them, sharing the wondrous ways God has blessed your life.