“Disaster, has its roots in happiness,
and happiness, lurks in disaster.
Who knows when this cycle will end?”
Tao Te Ching, v 58
The other night I heard a preacher say, "This is the first generation to believe that happiness will be found IN THIS LIFE." Think on that. You're at work, and somebody down the line who didn't pay attention or didn't care sent a mistake down to you- which you now have to fix. You're at home watching TV, and suddenly the channel goes dead. You're typing away and a stray knuckle hits that otherwise useless "windows" button and erases what you had just so eloquently put. And you get mad. It isn't fair!
Or you are at the hospital with a loved one whose life depends on a procedure you cannot possibly afford. The middle of a blizzard and your HVAC goes out. Election night and the person you are sure will bring your area to ruin is leading. It's not fair!
Once upon a time, I took a step back. I was reading Russian history (always a good place to look for hope), and I began to wonder what it had to be like for the poor Christian peasant who slaved all day and half the night, in the bitter cold and the bittersweet summer, for enough food that MIGHT keep his family whole and alive- if not for the share the Tsar took, or the tax collector took, or the prince of the town took, or spoilage took. I asked God to open me up to feel what that sense of hopelessness must have felt like. Believe me, it didn't take long until I made like Samantha Stevens and shouted, "Reverse the curse!"
But here's the thing. VASTLY more people know about THAT life than know about the life YOU have if you are reading this. We only think we know disaster, but even when a storm comes and sweeps "everything" away, it only seems so bad because of the height from which we have fallen.
When I first started sponsoring kids, the description of the home in which that first child lived went like this: Dirt floor, corrugated tin walls- an affluence there. No sanitation, electricity, running water. A bag of Milky Ways would cost nearly a year's wages, if the child had someone watching over him who was working. Father unknown and disappeared (but actually returned to the scene years later), mother went off to the city to find work and never returned. This is the reality in MOST places in this world. And yet, he was a happy child, glad to be in a program where he was receiving our help, happy to be able to learn, to play. Able to deal with the situation not out of some greater spiritual strength than we have, but because it was ALL HE KNEW.
My point- and you can draw several if you like, but here's what I'm shooting for- is that we here in the "developed world" expect a certain standard. We feel God has abandoned us when life doesn't meet these expectations. "If there was a God, so-and-so wouldn't have died/I wouldn't have this cancer/the nation wouldn't be in this shape." But that's not God's idea, that's YOUR idea.
You see, God is about the Big Picture, which I have said over and over. And that big picture is, creating a people peculiar to Himself, to share the Glories of Heaven with. Earth is only a forge. Too many of us profess faith in God, but only live as if this world is all we get. Because this world lies to us that very thing. Get what you can while you can get it. And if you don't get it, well, that just proves that there's no such thing as God. I defy any atheist to give me a reason for their disbelief that cannot be boiled down to that statement right there. What good is God if He is not our magic genii in the here and now?
I led with that quote from Lao-Tzu because it asks the very important question that he could not answer, with a perspective in this life. But if you widen out to the Big Picture, Christ gave us the response- and taught us why we don't get what we want, in one phrase:
33 These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world. (John 16)
If you are ever going to understand God, if you are ever going to come to true faith, this is where you have to start- that this life is not the end-all, and happiness is not promised to us here. If you are happy with your life, congratulations- you are in the .00005% that can say that. But God has a different plan- and in this world, happiness isn't necessarily included. But in the Big Picture...