Posted by: minnow | September 6, 2009

Lie # 3: Happiness is: Being a Christian

And, if you aren’t happy you must be doing something wrong.  Or so goes the sub-text. 

While saying that Christianity equals happiness may not be preached in so many words, it certainly has been implied in every fellowship I have ever attended.  People who struggle with depression are often “prayed for” and encouraged to “lay their burdens at the foot of the cross” but they are much less often invited to lunch or allowed on the worship team.

Let’s face it–depressed people are depressing.  Our “How ya doin’? Fine.” ritual as we breeze past each other in the isles or lobbies of our fellowships tells the real story–WE DON’T WANT TO KNOW.  Not really.  Plastering the smile on our own faces is often a difficult enough assignment without needing to try to uplift someone else.  So we keep it simple, act friendly, rarely reach out, and even more rarely let others in.  We speed up the tempo of our lives because if we keep busy at least we look like we are engaged, care, are involved, are happy.  The truth is the busier we are the less time we have to really check in and know how we feel, or equally as important how those around us feel.

A while back I promised myself I would never again answer the question “How are you doing?” with the word “fine”.  For the most part I have kept that promise.  I have to say, some of the looks I get when I say things like, “At least we’re having weather” are pretty interesting.  Sadly however, most who even hear my response just smile awkwardly and move on. 

We honestly do not know how to play the game any other way than the uninvolved disconnected way we have always played it.  And for the most part, even for most of us who call ourselves Christians, walking out our lives really is a game.  If we get it right and catch a few breaks–like having to bury our parents instead of our children–everyone will be convinced we are happy because we have Jesus in our hearts and a smile on our faces.

I know I am treading on dangerous ground when I make statements like that last one.  Please, hear what I am saying and not what I am not.  We do our faith and our God a huge disservice by equating either with the lie of 24/7 happiness.  We also set ourselves (and others) up for continual failure and disappointment, not to mention give a foothold to the devil to torment us with doubt and fear.  The smiles we paint on and the cheerfulness we fain neither testifies that Jesus is or is not in our hearts.  We do not let the Lord down when we experience pain or sadness nor when we express empathy for those around us who might be hurting.  I am not more Christian or a better Christian because I smile.  But I just might be if I shed a tear with someone.  Once again, the lie we tell ourselves and others (that happiness is:being a Christian or all Christian are happy) gets in the way of healthy, authentic  relationships and I am convinced being in healthy, authentic  relationships is what Jesus would prefer.

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Responses

  1. I do hear you on this one. I love the authenticity and ability to actually talk/connect with people in smaller fellowship like we have rather than just shake a hand and get their name. I like being able to talk about what is actually going on and not just ‘yeap had a good week’. Yet I also am thankful for my friends that know when I need a “push” and a change in perspective and will help get me out of funks.

    Although I am a very cheery & optimistic person – I have battled postpartum depression for years and that expereince has truly let me see depression and its victims in a new light. I guess more than anything I am able to separate emotions/feelings from what is truly going on. Although I DO feel that God uses our emotions to reach us & our emotions are a graet thing and we should desire to stir our affections for Him….. I’m not dependant anymore on those superficial ‘feelings’ or emotions that are so changing & affected by many things.

    I would say I am more tuned in when people are not doing well/feeling well and will try not to breeze through it or just try to give them a quick hug and “oh it will get better”…. I try to listen and pray with them and then followup and not just forget about what they’ve said.

    The only ‘issue’ I have in this area that I honestly need help with are people who are so sick & negative that are very manipulative & abusive in their depressed state. I have been in those relationships more than once and it’s hard because one side of me feels that God can really use me and I shouldn’t give up. I can listen, not just give quick “cheer up” answers….. yet the other side warns me how bad I’m getting taken advantage of and that I don’t want to coddle and give in to every whimper & attention seeking cry. So I don’t know. I do need help in this area and with some boundaries for myself & my family.

    i could go on and on about this – gotta go though!

    thanks minnow – good thoughts. i hear you

  2. p.s. this raelly got me thinkin too about how i’ve been discussin with some others in our fellowship about how the ‘show’ can really take away from the people. but then we got into this big discussion about who should be the focus – God or the people. and it’s both. but we worship God by ministering to others as well as through music – and who is to say one is better than the other. my point was that when we can’t stop “the routine”/show/program when we see somebody who clearly needs intercession or comfort – then is something wrong? i made the analogy that most have heard that if somebody comes in off the street bleeding – of coruse we’d stop and help him stop bleeding – but yet spiritually, relationally, emotionally people are coming in bleeding trying to give us warning signs and they are mostly ignored or “we’ll talk about this soon gotta go”…. we are to be soul focused and when we see a need and move on to something else – what if the Spirit was actually calilng us to minister to that need – we missed worshipping God by thinking we had to ‘go’ worship God. yet at the same time – I DO believe in corporate worship through music and I understand it needs structure when more and more people are coming to the gatherings.

    anyway – just rambling as usual for what it’s worth. i know many times in past congregations I was in when I was so broken and hurting – i was screaming for soembody to reach out to me – and nobody did. yet I did walk away ministered by the Spirit through the songs or my husband’s hand or words….. anyway again – just have a lot of time to think these days – not a lot of moving around.

    also – i believe that in the end I am finding that nothing brings me lasting ‘happiness’ besdies finding purpose in Him. and it’s not just finding “my purpose” — but finding His purpose in me. everything else and every other way I’ve tried to fill the holes just lead me worse off. and i won’t say i’m always ‘happy’ – but there is an underlying joy & hope despite the desperation and unworthiness/darkness i might experience.

  3. Not sure what to say Randi so I guess I’ll ponder what you said for a while. I need to be careful to NOT make organized fellowship the enemy. Only part of me sees it that way, but that part puts forth a pretty strong argument when I let it so…I know this–I am glad I’ve met you via the internet because I have had to rethink issues with regard to Institutionalized Church, the assumptions I made and the judgments I held against specific “types” of Christians. Thank you.

  4. yep. I feel you. I went to scum of the earth church in denver for 5 years. It goes both ways though. Some times when some one tells you how they really feel, they shut down when you ask more about it and try to reach out.
    If I could have one wish granted, it would be that it would be physically impossible to lie and say one is a Christian when one is not.
    People who truly believe God loves and cares about them are going to love and care about other people.It is simple cause and effect. I’m ok with non Christians and people with questions. I am not ok with people saying they know God and love Him- but when you look at their life they don’t really know or love any one else.


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