One of the most often quoted passages of scripture is this one.
For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. (Jeremiah 29:11)
This verse and others are often taken out of context and applied broadly so that people are led to believe that all God wants for them is a life of sunshine and butterflies.
The truth is that your life might get worse, not better, if you devote your life to Jesus. Consider this passage from Hebrews 11. Many people who consider this chapter to be the “hall of the faithful” have evidently never read the whole chapter.
Some were tortured, refusing to accept release, so that they might rise again to a better life. Others suffered mocking and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment.They were stoned, they were sawn in two, they were killed with the sword.They went about in skins of sheep and goats, destitute, afflicted, mistreated— of whom the world was not worthy—wandering about in deserts and mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth. (Hebrews 11:35-38)
This is a description of people who were sold out to God, they were people of great faith, and great faithfulness. They were not “happy”.
When the great Apostle Paul received his commission to take the gospel to the masses this is what the Lord himself said about him.
But the Lord said to him, “Go, for he is a chosen instrument of mine to carry my name before the Gentiles and kings and the children of Israel. For I will show him how much he must suffer for the sake of my name. (Acts 9:15-16)
That Paul would suffer was as certain as that he would take the gospel to the masses. He was not told to expect happiness.
Fortunately, or unfortunately, we American Christians face little suffering because of our faith. In most of the rest of the world suffering is seemingly “normal” for believers. Frequently I read of Christians murdered in some far away country. What is their crime? They follow Jesus, that’s it.
Does God want us to be happy? Or, maybe we should ask “Does God want me to be happy?” The answer is clearly NO!
He does want us to have joy, and overflowing.
He does want us to have peace, it’s a gift from his grace.
He does want us to be content, whatever our circumstance.
He does want us to know and believe that everything we experience as believers are parts of a whole work by him that result in our best interests. (Romans 8:28) Suffering of all kinds is routine and should be expected. (Romans 8:17-18)
You may be asking, “Why would you write a post like this?”. It is a good question and I’ll give an answer. Several months ago my wife and I and others were part of a class at church for new Christians. One of the participants was a young man with a very bad past. He had been a Christian for only a few months. He tearfully told our group that his wife had deserted him, he had lost his job, he was being evicted, and he had no transportation. Now for my reason for writing this post. He was convinced that somehow he had failed since things were not going as he thought they should. He was very unhappy! I explained to him that his relationship to God is not conditioned upon how well he performs. We cannot measure our standing with God based on day-to-day circumstances.
This young man is typical of tens of thousands who have been taught that God wants his people to be happy and when you are unhappy it’s a sure indication you have failed or that God is not pleased with you at the moment. Each of us follows Jesus imperfectly. God’s love is “unconditional”. He is not fickle as we humans are. He does not turn his love on and off based on how we respond. We very often bring trouble on ourselves by making poor choices and acting in ways that are against God’s instructions but we can’t blame the results on God. Even our mistakes, yes, even our sins will be used by God for our good. We most likely can’t even begin to see the good at the moment but we must trust what God has promised. The life we live is a life of faith. Faith says “What God has promised is true no matter what I am presently seeing with my eyes and hearing with my ears. He will do what he promised”.
Dear friend, cling to God with all your might in the middle of your darkest night. When hard times come, (and they will come), instead of questioning your own performance and questioning God’s love for you, rejoice! Trouble in the life of a faith-follower of Jesus is a reminder of his love! You can confidently take God at his word.