Recently, I attended a social event for work. I interacted with as many people as possible. Then I felt obligated to go and talk with some men on our board. It was clear before I left my comfortable place at the table that these colleagues had NOT switched from alcohol to soda.
“NANCY!” Our board chair from New York City bellowed. “I’ve been talking with the mormons! What religion are you?”
Stunned, I answered hesitantly. I was unsure if this was an opening from God or the ramblings of a very relaxed colleague. “That’s an interesting question,” I began. “My family is Jewish…” I watched as understanding began to dawn in his eyes. “But I am a Christian.” As often happens, confusion settled in. “I don’t get it,” he said loudly. “Are you Jewish or Christian?” “My family is Jewish,” I replied. “But I practice Christianity. I believe in the New Testament. I believe that Jesus is God.” “WHY?” he asked, his face closer to mine than I would normally like. “Well,” I answered, trying to back away. “I had an encounter with God when I was in college. I believe Jesus died for my sins. And I believe every word of both the Old and New Testament.”
My evening took a sudden and immediate turn. I found myself talking about religion with a colleague who was both overly friendly and seriously inquisitive. I wasn’t sure if I should share the gospel or just excuse myself and head back to my original (and quieter) seat at the table. Before I could decide, my colleague stated definitively, “I don’t believe in eternity. I don’t think Jesus is God. But I think Christianity is great. It makes your life happier. I think anyone who is a Christian will have a happier life. And that’s what it’s all about….”
I looked at my colleague, a respected professional old enough to be my father, and I felt an unexpected anger in my heart. “You speak like someone who hasn’t suffered.” I said to him strongly. “Noone who has suffered can say that Christianity is designed to make you happy.” My voice grew louder. “You tell the mother who has lost her child that Christianity exists to make her happy. You tell that to the wife whose husband has a brain injury. Christianity does NOT exist to make me happy,” I emphasized. I found my colleague listening to me with a new respect.
“I can walk through my trials because I know God is walking WITH me.” I was surprised at the strength of my words. “Christianity does NOT make me happy. Christianity reminds me that I am not alone in my suffering. Christianity tells me that this world is not all there is, that there will be an eternity far greater than anything I could ever imagine.”
“My faith is not about making me happy,” I continued. “But it is a reminder that there is someone and something greater than anything I can ever imagine, and that one day, that One will lead me into His presence forever. That is eternity. And that is only for those who have trusted in Christ. NOT for those who are happy.”
Suddenly, a frivolous evening had become serious. I do not know if my colleague heard my words. I don’t know if he remembers them. But I was profoundly affected. So many people say that it’s OK to believe whatever you want as long as it makes you happy. When confronted with this lie, I couldn’t keep silent. My experience from living with hidden disabilities has confirmed to me that my faith is about everything BUT being happy. My faith makes me secure. It carries me, sustains me, and I know it will lead me home. But if my faith is for this world only, then it is sorely lacking.
Living in constant trial reminds me again and again that my faith is not about ME. It’s about GOD. Faith that only exists to make us happy will never withstand the fiery trials of this world. Faith that is true and real reminds me of the world to come. Faith that is true and real reminds me that Jesus lived, that he was crucified for MY sins, that he was dead and buried and ROSE AGAIN so that I can spend eternity with Him. How thankful I am for His gift of faith. How thankful I am that my faith is about Jesus and what He has done, not about my happiness.
My faith will never stand if it rests on my happiness. But if it rests on the character of God, and on what He has done for me through the death of His Son, then it will never fail. Amen and Amen. Thank you, Lord