Friday, July 26, 2019

I just want you to be happy. . .

The ideal of every parent is to turn out happy kids.  At least that is how many parents see their job.  We parents tend to entertain our children to death, take up their cause even when they are in the wrong, fight their battles for them, and defend everything they say or think or do -- all for the cause of their happiness.  It is a noble task.  We learned it from parents who did the same for us.  They wanted us to have a better life than they had.  I know I was motivated by the same goal for my children.  But happiness is an elusive goal and probably not an achievable one.

Our kids cannot be insulated from sadness, loss, pain, or regret.  And they should not be.  Life is not about happiness.  Contentment cannot find its source in things around us that go as planned or desired.  And many of the things that make us happy (at least in the moment) are self-destructive and immoral.  We need to be careful about this god of happiness.  It can and will become our undoing.  But even worse than parents who work to make their children happy is when we put God in service to the same goal and make happiness rather than holiness, self-satisfaction rather than salvation, HIS goal as well as ours.

It seems to me that much of modern day Christianity has gone off the rails in pursuit of personal happiness and in making Scripture and God the servant of this happiness.  In church after church where people gather on Sunday morning, the object of the sermon and the focus of the teaching is on people rather than God.  Absent from the conversation is any mention of sin (except the sin of self-denial).  We live in a time in which individualism has become the defining principle of life and individual happiness the goal.  Marriage, family, and even jobs have become secondary to the individual happiness of the person.  We flaunt who we think we are and insist that everyone else's job is to respect and honor our identity of the moment.  We consider the goal of our parents, employers, religion, and society to be to provide for our happiness -- even though this is a changing goal.  Even though we are not always sure what makes us happy, we do not shy away from making others responsible for our unhappiness and for making those same people responsible for making us happy.

While this may be a serious problem for parents and others, our pursuit of happiness at any cost and our desire to make others, especially God, responsible for that happiness will empty the Church and not fill it.  Once people discover that religion is no panacea for pleasure and happiness, they will become the hardened disenchanted who once believed that God cared and wanted them to be happy and now don't care about God at all.  It is a dangerous thing to surrender the real Gospel of forgiveness of sins, the rescue of our lost lives, the gift of eternal life, and salvation for a false gospel of personal happiness and fulfillment.

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