I listened to an awesome sermon by Tim Keller yesterday. The text for his message was Psalm 1. This Psalm is special for a couple of reasons. It was the first passage of scripture I ever memorized. I had memorized other individual verses, but never a whole passage. I was probably around ten at the time. I can’t remember if it was for Sunday School or Pioneer Girls, but I am thankful for whoever “made” me memorize it. As I got older, I realized how much easier it had been to commit verses to memory when I was young. Because of this, I began working with my children, helping them memorize scripture as soon as they could talk. This Psalm, though, they learned at a children’s conference and they learned it with motions. It’s pretty awesome to watch several hundred children quote a passage complete with motions. “His leaf also shall not wither…” Hundreds of small hands that had been raised in the air as they said “tree” in the previous line, drooped on the word “wither.” It was pretty cool.
Keller used Psalm 1 to explore the topic of happiness. I found myself wishing as I listened that I had heard this sermon years ago. I don’t think that is the right thing to wish, however. God’s timing is perfect and He knows exactly when our hearts are ready to learn. Keller asked the question, “Are we happier than our ancestors.” He talked about how if you go back and read the journals and letters of those who have gone before us, you would have to come to the conclusion that we are not. This does not seem to make sense. We have so much more technology, so many more conveniences and, overall, we are so much more comfortable than they could ever have imagined.
The good news, according to Tim Keller, is that happiness is possible. “Blessed (happy) is the man…” He said that most of us start out in life thinking that happiness is natural but later we realize that it is not so easy and many of us end up thinking that real happiness in unachievable. The problem is that we think happiness is connected to our circumstances, when in fact it really consists in what we ARE. Happiness, he said, is only a by-product of looking for something else MORE. He said that if we come to God in order for Him to make us happy, we come to a false God. We have to come to God without conditions. He pointed out that when the prodigal son came home, he did not ask for happiness, he only asked to be able to serve. Instead of thinking that God owes me happiness, I must realize that I owe God everything. The less I am concerned about my own happiness, the happier I will be.
It was great stuff! He also said that Christianity makes us sadder and happier at the same time. That idea is fascinating to me. I am continuing to chew on it. Knowing Jesus should make me more aware of pain. The more we love, the more potential we have for pain. If I love only myself, I will only feel my own pain. If I love my neighbor, I will suffer along with him in his sufferings. What if I love the world as Jesus does?
I needed to hear this. I spend too much time looking for happiness. I need to sink my roots down deep into God’s wisdom and strength. If He wants me to be happy, I will be. In fact, I’m feeling better already!