Why am I not Happier?
Edwin Adams, London
WE SOMETIMES SING, 'Always singing, never sighing', but we know it is not true; and it cannot be true in a world like ours. The Christian life should be joyful, but we cannot expect it to be always comfortable. Its symbol is a cross, not a baby's rattle or a tennis racquet. When we are growing into manhood or womanhood we generally pass through a time of storm and stress, and at times we feel very unhappy. But this will pass; as we get older the bent of the mind becomes objective rather than subjective, and the arena of conflict tends to become more outward and less inward. We must take the long view, and allow life to open gradually and naturally.
Some people seem born under a cloud; their depression is part of their make-up. On the other hand the natural optimism and buoyancy that spring from good health and high animal spirit are not Christian virtues, although they may be a good advertisement for the Gospel. A believer may be less happy than others, but not less pleasing to the Lord. Many good Christians, like Lord Shaftesbury, have suffered from melancholy. In some cases this may be due to ill-health. A clogged body blocks the highways of the soul; Elijah's depression under the juniper tree was largely due to exhaustion. In a case like this a good meal will change the whole outlook. The believer is not exempt from trouble, nor does it follow that he has been disobedient when it comes upon him. Peter did not blame the Christians to whom he wrote for being in 'heaviness' by reason of various trials.
The Word of God has its dark side. We live in a universe marked by three great tragedies, sin, pain and hell. We might be happier if we shut our eyes to the tragic side of our mysterious universe, as do the Christian Science New Thought people; but to do so would be to be disloyal to Christ and His Word. Here is the cross for the Christian - the cost to self in doing the will of God; it belongs only to the followers of the Crucified. The world's 'Bright Young People', if they still exist to fritter away their butterfly lives, know nothing of this. The believer is more sensitive to evil, in all its forms, than the non-Christian, and he is not properly at home in this present evil world. Of course, backsliding and spiritual selfishness may keep the soul joyless. If we hug all our bless¬ings to ourselves instead of snaring them with others, we deserve to be unhappy. Selfishness is not the guardian angel of our happiness!
The fact is, that all life as we know it, involves pain, mystery, conflict and self-discipline. As a garden of happiness this world is a complete failure. The young are often pessimistic, for they make demands upon life which it was never meant to satisfy. There is truth in the biting remark of the cynical Lord Beaconsfield: 'The disappointed are always young'. Real joy may begin where pleasure leaves off. The secret of true, lasting joy is to make the Lord Jesus our supreme object. The summum bonum of life, here and hereafter, is the joy of loving, pleasing, serving and worshipping Him. Indeed, this is the only thing that can make the thought of a future life desirable.