God Wants You Happy
The abundant life promised to us in John 10:10 includes your happiness!
This discovery (something so obvious and simple it can hardly be called a discovery outside my own subjective experience) most likely made such a deep impression on me on that day because it contrasted so starkly with what I had been experiencing the previous week. I had been through some particularly rough days. I was dealing with my own issues of adjusting to living in New York City and serving in a Manhattan parish after many years in the more subdued and controlled environment of a seminary in Rome, Italy. My impression was that everyone around me also seemed to be going through tough times, and they weren’t making much sense of their struggles. I was hurting a bit, yes, but these people were miserable. I recall the young, fearful, and inconsolable mother in the hospital with late-stage ovarian cancer; another dear friend of mine at her wits’ end, frustrated and angry that she was reaching forty and still hadn’t found a decent guy; an usher in my church laid off from his job one week before his wedding; a Protestant pastor and friend whose wife was leaving him for her wealthy boss; a father of three young children, suffering from debilitating and humiliating depression; and finally, the ninety-eight-year-old man at whose funeral service I presided that was attended by nobody—not a single person!
Over the years of my pastoral ministry I’ve unconsciously formed an ultrathin but steely guard that allows me to be interested in, and even immersed in, others’ problems without being overwhelmed emotionally. That week, however, just beneath my serene exterior floated major doubts about God’s questionable strategy of care for some of his children: “Are there real, true, positive solutions for their predicaments, for every predicament?” I wondered.
The very simple, unexceptional flash of spiritual enlightenment I experienced on that Saturday morning immediately put these concerns—summarized in my question to God about real solutions for everyone—back into life’s big picture. It is a context where spiritual realities (including heaven, grace, and redemption) are taken into account. True, the previous week I had encountered a group of people who were in agony, tragically stuck in their misery, but here, through Moe’s indomitable joy (even as his local butcher shop was teetering on extinction on account of new, corporate giants in the neighborhood) and through scripture, I was being reminded by grace of God’s promise to us: he will bring out of every bad situation, out of every single instance of pain and suffering in our lives, a greater good—yes, an even greater good than the goodness we are missing now—if we let him! This promise covers every stripe and strand of our seemingly limitless human capacity for physical, emotional, and spiritual agony.