“Convalescence,” I wrote in December, “means ‘a gradual recovery of strength and health after a sickness’”. It has been three months since COVID pneumonia attacked, and I am 95% normal. This morning, I “old man jogged” on a treadmill for 15 minutes, then swam 1,000 yards in the pool. When I’m on the bike, I can still feel restriction in my lungs, but I’m so much better. I’m going to social distance through the month of February because my oncologist told me to, but I think 2021 is looking better all the time! Thanks to all who prayed for me and cheered me on!
As we go through the Happy Series at Grace, based on the book “How Happiness Happens” by Max Lucado, I have come to find bits of wisdom that I always have known to be true, but I forget, or at least I get distracted.
Here’s an incredible insight: “Jesus was accused of much, but he was never ever described as a grump, sourpuss, or self-centered jerk. People didn’t groan when he appeared. They didn’t duck for cover when he entered the room.” Jesus was really one of the happiest people who ever walked the earth. Actually, THE happiest person. Ever.
“Thousands came to hear him. Hundreds chose to follow him. They shut down their businesses and walked away from careers to be with him. His purpose statement read “I came to give life with joy and abundance” (John 10:10 THE VOICE). Jesus was happy and wants us to be the same.”
Disciples of Jesus really ought to be the happiest people in the world
It’s true. Disciples of Jesus really ought to be the happiest people in the world. And yet, far too many suffer the same dampness and deflation that people who don’t know Jesus suffer from.
Why is that? I can’t say for certain, but the series has reminded me – and what I’ve come to experientially realize – that it’s because I stepped back into thinking that doesn’t work.
It’s the lie. The lie that happiness is getting everything I want. If I had a meaningful, well-paying job, a nicer car, a model spouse, yearly vacations to Europe, a larger house, faster internet, a smaller waistline … what do those things have in common? Me, me, me. What will make ME happy.
And that never works; it’s a universal truth.
It’s time to pull out a Jim Elliot quote.
At only 28, Elliot was speared to death by the very people he chose to love and was trying to preach the Gospel. An obsessive journal writer, Elliot was miles deep in wisdom and character.
Here’s one of his prayers: “Let not our longings slay the appetite of our living.”
His statement begs the question: are our longings in alignment with what we believe to be worth living for? Put another way, is what we live for worth dying for? For Elliot, the answer is already known; he who also wrote, “I seek not a long life, but a full one; like you Lord Jesus.” In that, he did both.
His widow, the inimitable Elisabeth Elliot Gren, wrote “We are not meant to die merely in order to be dead. God could not want that for the creatures to whom he has given the breath of life. We die in order to live.”
And in this is the paradox for the disciple of Jesus: He calls us to take up a cross and die to self that we might be truly free and life; we give up our life, so that we might have his; we give up our burdens to him, only to have his easier yoke placed on us; in order to be first, we must be last; if we want to be great – to be reach the acme of existence – we must be the servant of all.
That’s the truth. We can’t change the truth because that’s the nature of truth. How do we know that’s true? Jesus, the Only Begotten Son of God did exactly those things.
Need a little more proof that having it all doesn’t work? Study after study, looking at the lives of lottery winners have proven that more money doesn’t make you happier – in fact, it often has the opposite effect. Researchers studied the lives of lottery winners, others who didn’t play, and other who were left paraplegics by accidents. The study found out that being rich didn’t make you happier – and being left paralyzed didn’t make you sadder. If you were happy before – living life by principle – you’ll likely be okay. You’ll be happy! There are lots of sad, wealthy people as well as sad, poor people. There are lots of happy parapeligics, as well as sad ones.
The difference is the person, not the circumstance.
How does a thief no longer become a thief? When he becomes someone else ...
Imagine yourself sitting on a hillside in Judea. The sun is shining, there is a pleasant breeze – but you’re brain and heart are racing because you’ve just heard the most remarkable things ever about life, God, others, and what it means to be happy. The person speaking is so young – maybe late 20’s/early 30’s – but speaks with such authority. He’s drawing his teaching to a conclusion.
“Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.”
Who says things like that? HE does. He’s opened my eyes. Ever the paradox revealer! He invites me to become most like myself by become the person he calls me to be!
What choice do I have? I must cling to the Rock that is Higher than I.
I despair. I say to him: I don’t know how to build, Lord. I make a mess out of everything.
“Oh, that’s okay! Remember? I’m a carpenter. I’ll show you what to do. Shall we get started?”
Oh, yes, Lord. Oh, yes.