Am I the only person who gets annoyed with people who are happy all the time? I can think of a whole host of reasons why they frustrate me. One is the guilt I feel when I’m around them. I seem to find a lot of reasons to complain. To safeguard these feelings and not overwhelm too many others, I’ve learned over time to complain internally or to a few select people who can handle my intensity. I tend to have very strong opinions and high levels of expectation. This means that I live with a constant, low-grade frustration that things are not as they should be.
Let me share a quick example. One day earlier this year, I was taking the kids to school. I’d planned my whole morning. I woke up on time. I had a great time reading the Bible and praying. I worked out, then showered. I had a high-protein, low-carb breakfast. With great expectations for the day, I prayed for the kids on the way to school and blessed them as I dropped them off.
I was headed to our weekly staff prayer meeting. The previous week I had laid into our staff about being late for staff prayer. We bring God our best, right? Low on the compassion, high on the challenge.
After I dropped off the kids and rounded the corner, I noticed that I-85, the major interstate by my house, was jam-packed. My trusted Waze app said that I would still make it by 8:55. I preferred to wing it, so I took another route. Long story short, I was late for staff prayer. I walked into the meeting as humbled as I have been in a long period of time. It ruined my morning.
Sometimes I’m so annoyed with my lack of happiness and the notion that contentment seems to always elude me. Don’t we all look for happy days? We want the good life. In this passage Peter quotes Psalm 34, which was written 1,000 years earlier. The pursuit of happiness, evident throughout history, is still going strong today.
The whole world had its happiness shaken in the midst of COVID-19. How in the world am I supposed to be happy when I am stuck inside the four walls of my home, and it’s raining outside? I can’t even go to the grocery store without a spacesuit on. I haven’t been alone with my wife without kids for three months. Happiness? Don’t think so…
When we are stuck in less-than-ideal circumstances, we have several options. We can fight against the situation and use all our energy to bang our heads against the wall, we can try to outsmart the thing that we can’t change, or, we can change our definition of happiness.
The longer I live, the more I realize that the kind of happiness the Bible is talking about is much more like what we describe as satisfaction. For me, it has to flow from a different metric. Peter says, “the eyes of the Lord watch over those who do what is right.”
Not sure if that gives you comfort or creeps you out. There are eyes watching you throughout the day. These are the same eyes that burn with love and compassion for you. These eyes are not looking to curse. Just the opposite. The eyes of the Lord are looking to bless. He’s trying to find people to strengthen and support.
I started a new practice recently. When I lay my head down on the pillow, I try to think back through my day. I recall decisions I made, words I spoke, my attitude as I interacted with others. I think through the work I accomplished when no one was looking. I think of the moments I wanted to say something sarcastic or hurtful and how the Holy Spirit gave me the wisdom to hold my tongue.
The other day, I lost my temper with my kids. Too much to get into here, but let’s just say I was in my garage yelling like a toddler who had his toy truck taken from him. I kept pounding home this point: “Why can’t you just get along?” It was not one of my finer moments. I had to humble myself and apologize to the kids, go on a prayer walk, and talk to a few godly friends who helped restore me.
As I was praying, these words of John’s came to mind, “Love covers a multitude of sins.” It felt as though God—without excusing my anger—was re-affirming my attempts to make deposits into my kids’ lives over the last 14 years of parenting.
In that moment my soul was happy, not because of my perfection or ability to get it right; I was happy because the gracious God of the universe let me know that He sees me. He’s taking all my messes and He’s combining them with His grace and my deep desire to please Him in order to knit together a life that blesses His heart.
Our brokenness can cause us to lose HOPE. God wants you to know today that He sees your desire to do what’s right. For some it’s very embryonic. He is way more concerned with trajectory than size. He can take whatever level of trust and obedience you give Him and work with it. He wants to bless you and form you into a person of integrity, but you have to let Him work with you.
Choose today to do what’s right. Own it when you mess up, and let those mess-ups push you further into His grace. Say you’re sorry, and ask for forgiveness. Ask Him to help you change. When He helps you succeed, give Him glory. And when you lay your head down tonight, look back with satisfaction, knowing that your friendship with Jesus grew today.