Deciding to put my faith in Christ and repent of my sins is, without a doubt, the best decision of my life, but it hasn’t meant an easy ride. I don’t expect that this will change in the future, at least until I die or Jesus returns. The question of happiness is one that I think all of us struggle with, particularly in times of prolonged suffering.
It is common place today to hear that if you believe in Christ all your problems will go away. This 1D falsehood suggests that God only exists to withhold happiness from those who don’t believe, and ensure that every whim of believers comes true. Given the time of year, you can see how this makes God into a cosmic Santa Claus, with a naughty and nice list. If this was actually the God of the Bible, honestly, I would also feel the way many non-believers do, and think God was cruel and self-serving, buying our love.
Even as Christians, we often slip into this thinking without realising. We know God loves us, and that he doesn’t want us to suffer, so we automatically assume he won’t let us suffer. If we do suffer, our gut reaction is to want it to stop at all costs, and to question whether God really does exist, is powerful enough to stop our suffering and/or love us. We have linked our happiness to God’s love, and made Christianity about us, rather than Jesus.
God doesn’t show his love for us, ultimately and decisively, through granting every desire that crosses our minds, or even by giving us a big house, a perfect spouse, and great job, perfect health, and plenty of friends. He shows his love for us by sending his son to die for us on the cross. We rebelled and caused all the brokenness we see in this world; all the pain and suffering we see, and feel, is rooted in human’s selfish desire to do what we want, and put ourselves first. God, in his kindness, has shown mercy on us, and saved us from the punishment we rightly deserve for this rebellion. He has provided a way for us to have the pain-free life we want, where there is no death or suffering, through trusting in Jesus’ death.
Confusion often arises when people do not understand when this promise of a suffering-free life begins. The bible clearly states that this promise is fulfilled when Jesus returns, not when we believe:
Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. 2 And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. 3 And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. 4 He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”
5 And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” Also he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.” (Revelation 21:1-5) – This is an amazing passage promising and showing us what life will be like for believers after Jesus returns.
3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 4 to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, 5 who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. 6 In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, 7 so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. 8 Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, 9 obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls. (1 Peter 1:3-9) – A passage again promising an imperishable, undefiled inheritance which will be ours in the last time (when Jesus returns), yet now we may suffer (verses 6 and 7).
Sometimes though, in the midst of pain, despite knowing this, I want to ask why can’t God give me this pain-free future now? Why wait until a future day? It is a great comfort to me that God gives us the answer to this too, the passage in Revelation states that everything needs to be made new first. It is impossible for us to live in a world full of sin, and never suffer. The problem of sin needs to be dealt with first, before we can live without suffering.
Therefore, we shouldn’t fall into the trap of linking our suffering/happiness with God’s love (or lack of love) for us. When our faith relies on our happiness it will invariably falter and crumble; when we suffer, our trust in God will weaken, because we no longer believe that he cares for us.
We actually have a much surer and better thing to build our faith upon, and that is God’s actions in history and his promises. When we are in pain or hurting, we can hold fast to the promise that we are going to a suffering-free future, difficult though this may be some days. God has promised to fix everything, and it is in his promises we can trust. If you are suffering right now, it is not because God doesn’t care. In fact he cares so much he has prepared an eternity for you where you will never cry again. He sent his Son to die for that very reason.
To meditate on…
Why not post suggestions for how this could change our conversations with people who are suffering.
(All scripture quoted from English Standard Version Anglicised (ESVUK)
The Holy Bible, English Standard Version Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers.)