Isaac Watts wrote the famous hymn “Alas, And Did My Savior Bleed” in 1707. Due to the fact that I have been in the church all of my life I have probably sung this song hundreds of times. Here is how the chorus goes:
At the cross, at the cross where I first saw the light,
And the burden of my heart rolled away,
It was there by faith I received my sight,
And now I am happy all the day!
OK, either Isaac knew something that I don’t or there is something seriously wrong with me and my faith. What I can say for sure is that this idea of being happy all the day does not line up with my personal experience.
We all want to be happy and joyful.
All of us want to be happy. All of us are seeking after something that will fill up the empty spaces of our life and make us feel complete. This pursuit is what leads people to accomplish great things like going to college, advancing in their career and raising a family. The pursuit of happiness also leads people into addictions and bad relationships. This hit will ease the pain. This person will finally be the one. Every step we take in life is a step, we hope, that leads us towards greater joy and happiness.
We were told that only God will make us happy.
At some point many of us are told that only God can make us happy. So we head off in a new direction. We leave behind the things that have failed to satisfy us in the past and make our way towards God.
Unfortunately we were not told that even when we have God that there will be many times where we are struggling, hurting and feel like something is missing.
These days I am increasingly disturbed by the fact that we are telling people half truths about happiness and joy. Yes, I still believe that joy is found in Christ. The part that we are leaving out is that this happiness and joy is incomplete. It is true, we have found the greatest treasure of all in Jesus Christ but our souls are still encased in a human body that is strongly impacted by sin. Our joy is only a fraction of what it will be one day.
“We want. Life leaks. Desires are disappointed. And God, our Father, remains eternally good.” -Jen Pollock Michel
Here is why I believe this is such a big problem. We are making promises about the Christian life without the support of God’s Word. Think about it for a moment. The saints in the pages of Scripture went through valleys of all shapes and sizes. The Psalms are filled with men and women who had a deep intimate relationship with God yet at the same time went through seasons of serious heartache, sorrow and depression (Psalms 42-43).
I can say that Jesus is my greatest source of joy. I also need to be painfully honest and say that I live with a haunting sense in my soul that I am still not complete. Every single day feels like I am in one intense spiritual battle. There is an ache that I live with that I wish I could just make go away. Some days I truly wonder if I have the strength to keep going. If we are not open about how we are feeling I believe we could cause others to question the authenticity of their faith. If we look around and everyone seems like they have it all together then something surely must be wrong with us, right? Perhaps we have combined the American Dream with the gospel and created something that is bound to disappoint and disillusion everyone who comes into contact with it.
If you love Christ but still sense in your heart that there must be more you are right. You are not odd. You are not alone. You are a normal Christian person. Being discontented with life is not always a bad thing. We long for a new body free of pain and disease. We long for relationships that are completely safe and true. We long to be rid of our ever present sin nature. Finally, we long to be home. I am talking about home in the best sense of the word. Home with God. Let’s rejoice that one day our joy will be full but until that time let’s temper our unrealistic expectations with these words from the Apostle Paul, “For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies.” Romans 8:22-23
“If we find ourselves with a desire that nothing in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that we were made for another world.” -CS Lewis