Once upon a time I learned a Sunday school chorus that went something like this: “Happy, happy, happy, happy. Happy are the people whose God is the Lord.” As a kid, I enjoyed its simple, lilting tune and easy words. But my opinion changed over the years.
I think my problem lies with the word happy and the implication that God’s followers enjoy a blissful, carefree life. Nothing could be further from the truth. Real life can be downright tough sometimes. Nearly every week I receive emails from readers – many of them Christian women – who have experienced abuse or have been hurt deeply in the past. They know how to smile on the outside, but on the inside, they’re crying for help and trying to make sense of what’s happened.
The Bible is chock-full of biographies – real people with real problems. Many of them were devout God-followers. And my guess is that they didn’t feel happy, happy, happy all the time. Over the past few days, I’ve been reading about Jacob. This guy was royally ripped-off by his father-in-law.
In Genesis 31:18-41, Jacob explodes, “What is my crime? What have I done wrong to make you chase after me as though I were a criminal? You have rummaged through everything I own…For twenty years I have been with you, caring for your flocks. In all that time your sheep and goats never miscarried. In all those years I never used a single ram of yours for food…No, I took the loss myself! You made me pay for every stolen animal, whether it was taken in broad daylight or in the dark of night. I worked for you through the scorching heat of the day and through cold and sleepless nights. Yes, for twenty years I slaved in your house! I worked for fourteen years earning your two daughters, and then six more years for your flock. And you changed my wages ten times! (note: another version says “reduced my wages”).
Happy, happy, happy, Jacob was not. So, what enabled him to deal with the mistreatment handed to him by his father-in-law? I think the secret’s found in recognizing God’s sovereignty in his life. “If the God of my father had not been on my side…you would have sent me away empty-handed. But God has seen your abuse and my hard work. That is why he appeared to you last night and rebuked you!” (31:42).
Despite enduring two decades of mistreatment, Jacob held fast to the knowledge that God was on his side. And that’s likely what carried him through the dark days when he wondered whether his circumstances would ever change or improve. That’s what gave him the ability to truly smile even when he felt anything but happy, happy, happy.
So long as we’re warm and breathing, we’ll experience problems. We might be tempted to feel as though God has abandoned us. We might feel like He’s left us alone to figure things out, or that He’s turned against us. Our emotions might try to tell us any number of untruths, but let’s remember, as Jacob did, that God is on our side. He sees what’s happening to us, and those hurtful things do not go unnoticed. At some point, whether on this earth or in eternity, He will be our defense.
How about you? What gives you hope when you feel anything but happy, happy, happy?