Jesus doesn’t want you for a sunbeam

[From the archives]

Dear beautiful you

Turns out it’s important to my kids that there’s a smile in my voice. Cameron asks me regularly and randomly and without apparent probing agenda if I’m happy.

And once on a hurry-up-finish-your-food-get-in-the-car day Scott *SIGHED* – indignantly – and with a touch of accusation said:

‘Well. I thought this was going to be a happy day. But I guess? It’s a shouty day!

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So I’ve been thinking about shouty days and hilarious full-on delight days. I’ve been thinking about the difference between slow-burn joy, and spikes of sheer unbridled happiness.

Should Christians know both slow-cooker-joy and quick-microwave-happiness continually? Intermittently?

Should Christians be happier than other people?

And here’s what I’m thinking:

When Jesus sweated blood – then spilled it all out for people who hated Him – I reckon He wasn’t happy. I don’t think He flung cheesy Christianesy clichés at His captors. I don’t think He flashed His white teeth, saying, ‘God is more interested in My character than My comfort!’

I have it on good authority that He said, ‘My God! My God! Why have You forsaken Me?’

But I also know that, ‘for the joy set before Him, He endured the cross.’

Did He feel joy in that dark garden above the city? Did He feel joy as they hammered metal through tendons?

Certainly, He didn’t lose sight of it.

So maybe, slow-burn joy is the calm content of keeping your wits about you – knowing everything’s going to be ok in the end – in the very end. Knowing the game is won, even if right now you’ve been red-carded or benched.

Realistically, slow-burn joy cools with the worries of the world. In moments of trauma, grief and fight-or-flight fear, it’s almost gone.

Almost, but not quite.

Because joy is a fruit of the Spirit and if we’re saved we’re also Holy-Spirit-filled and He’s always there – whether we feel Him or not.

And maybe if we practise surrendering to Him even in the anger or disappointment, the slow-burn will glow bright again. Maybe it won’t feel like joy but more like the pained serenity of knowing we’re held. The soul equilibrium that takes the edge off stabbing pain.

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Rampant happiness is different. It’s the ecstasy of being engulfed in the fun or the funny, the thrilling and delicious. It’s in-the-moment amnesia that forgets hurt. Forgets how screwed up the world is. It’s enchanted or elated or orgasmic. It’s the splendour of a gasp-worthy view. It’s wedding days and babies born and first summer swims.

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But perhaps we struggle to enjoy joy – and we keep happiness from happening – because we feel sorry for ourselves. We feel entitled to a better deal in some arena of life. Or we feel guilty for relishing good gifts when so many others have so much less. Or we’re afraid of the future – waiting for the other shoe to drop instead of staying in the happy here-and-now.

You and me, let’s get comfortable with letting blessings and difficulties run parallel. Because in this crazy world where beautiful, terrible things happen, they do, and they always will.

So friend, the pressure’s off. You don’t have to be a sunbeam for Jesus 24/7. (In fact, don’t be that weird shiny-happy-all-the-time Christian.)

But sometimes, it’s ok to smile anyway. Fake it ‘til you make it. Decide to let the life God’s poured into you spill out and get all over a thirsty world. You might find you quite enjoy it.

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We humans are always buoyed up and happier if we have something to look forward to. A holiday. Dinner and a show. A Friday night with – bliss! – no plans!

So maybe Jesus-followers should be happier than most. Maybe we should be able to see the shafts of light – even the radiant sunbeams – in dust or gloom or other people.

Because we look forward to a lasting hope.

Yours happily (almost always) (but not always),

Me.

. . .

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