Zelophehad’s Daughters

Does God Want Us to Be Happy?

Posted by Seraphine

An oft-quoted scripture in the Book of Mormon is 2 Nephi 2:25: “Adam fell that men might be; and men are, that they might have joy.” When I typed “joy” into the lds.org search and looked at General Conference talks, I found talk after talk that expressed the joy that comes into our lives from living the gospel, being righteous, repenting, etc.

Now, let me start off by saying that I don’t disagree with this teaching, per se. I think that living the commandments, being righteous, etc. can lead to greater joy and happiness in life. I believe that the moral principles taught by the church–service, kindness, sacrifice, good health, etc.–will lead to more peace and less suffering.

Additionally, I also feel like there’s a lot of room in the church for discussing the difficult nature of mortality. We are quick to acknowledge that living the gospel does not eliminate death, illness, and all the other sorrows and trials that are part of this mortal existence. However, I find that the church usually teaches the following paradigm: life is hard and it sucks, but if you listen to God and obey the commandments, life will generally be easier and happier–you may suffer from trials, but you will have peace and joy from living the commandments.

Dalin H. Oaks takes this to another level in his conference talk “Joy and Mercy” (published in the November 1991 Ensign):

One of the greatest of all God’s revelations is Father Lehi’s teaching that “men are, that they might have joy.” (2 Ne. 2:25.) Joy is more than happiness. Joy is the ultimate sensation of well-being. It comes from being complete and in harmony with our Creator and his eternal laws. …The opposite of joy is misery. Misery is more than unhappiness, sorrow, or suffering. Misery is the ultimate state of disharmony with God and his laws.

For most of my life, this model has definitely resonated with me. I can think of hard, painful experiences from my past where I was able to find strength and comfort because I believed I was making the right decisions and doing God’s will. In those experiences, peace and well-being did come from doing what I believed God wanted me to do.

But what happens when God asks us to do things that lead to increased suffering? What happens when obeying God or his commandments erases your sense of harmony and well-being? What happens when you make decisions you believe are God’s will, but you are left completely without the peace that you did the right thing?

I think people are often tempted to say that the blessings, answers, miracles, peace, etc. will eventually come, whether in this life or the next. But when we do this, we ignore the pain and difficulty before the ending. Obeying God is hard and confusing, and often painful. In Matthew 10:34-39, we read,

Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword. For I am come to set a man at variance against his father, and the daughter against her mother, and the daughter in law against her mother in law. And a man’s foes shall be they of his own household. He that loveth father or mother more than me is not worthy of me: and he that loveth son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. And he that taketh not his cross, and followeth after me, is not worthy of me. He that findeth his life shall lose it: and he that loseth his life for my sake shall find it.

This scripture does contain a promise of “finding” one’s life, but it also contains a lot of hard doctrine about how following God isn’t easy and requires painful sacrifices. It also informs us that God is complex: he is not solely a loving father–He is a God of anger and conflict and suffering.

As I ponder my experiences of the past year, I recognize that someday I may find a miraculous ending, some higher purpose that will help everything make sense, or even a greater sense of peace and well-being. However, I have to accept that this kind of outcome is just as likely not to occur. And either way, I am having to spend some time rethinking the nature of God. As much as I believe God loves me, this is only part of the picture. I’d like to believe that He does want me to be happy, but I also know that He is willing to do things in my life that cause me immense amounts of pain and that completely destroy my understanding of myself and the world around me. I don’t know why, and this has caused to to stop and reevaluate the whole “obeying God = joy” narrative.

30 Responses to “Does God Want Us to Be Happy?”

  1. 1.

    I agree with most of your points, and there are plenty of scriptural examples of people feeling like you do. On the one hand we have Lehi saying that men are that they might have joy, and on the other hand there’s his son Jacob saying, “Our lives passed away like as it were unto us a dream, we being a lonesome and a solemn people, wanderers, cast out from Jerusalem, born in tribulation, in a wilderness, and hated of our brethren, which caused wars and contentions; wherefore, we did mourn out our days.”

    I’m uncomfortable, however, with your saying that “He is a God of anger and conflict and suffering.” I could lagree if it were reworded as: He is a God who asks us to endure anger and conflict and suffering that arise either as the results of living ina fallen world (illness, natural disasters) or through Satan’s influence. And again, I don’t agree that he “does things in our life that cause . . . pain” (etc.)–I see it more as His inviting us to come to a fallen world and allowing us and others agency to choose good from evil, so that we’re subjected to very hard things. But I don’t see Him as the direct agent of the suffering, but rather as His allowing it and asking us to endure it so that we can really grow and be tested.

    Maybe I’m wrong, but that’s how I see it, anyway.

  2. 2.

    Sorry for the typos above.

    Also, obviously when you say God causes suffering, you mean he does so by his asking us to face hard challenges, which I certainly agree he does do. But those hard challenges wouldn’t exist without a fallen world and/or the influence of the adversary.

    You do get into sticky philosophical terrain then, because if God uses Satan to accomplish His ends (since we couldn’t prove ourselves without adversity) then doesn’t God also take some kind of responsibility for everything Satan does–isn’t it the same as God doing it, if He allows it? Personally I’m comfortable with the idea of God knowing what Satan will do and using it to His advantage, but Satan still bearing responsibility for himself and acting as a free agent, which alleviates any philosophical stickiness for me.

  3. 3.

    This is a timely post, not because I have been experiencing immense suffering lately (just the normal low-grade kind), but because I got very angry on Sunday at our high council speaker and for the first time in my life (I think) walked out of sacrament meeting. He was going on and on about this supposed obedience-happiness equation, which was annoying enough, but then he said something to the effect of “You make the choice every morning whether to be happy or sad that day.” If he and I had been in a private conversation, this is when I would have let loose on him about how it’s obvious he has never suffered from clinical depression and how harmful and guilt-inducing speech like this is to young people who are just starting to go through bouts of uncontrollable sadness. As it was, I think (and I’m sort of embarrassed about this now) it was quite obvious I was not just going out to get a drink.

    It’s not that I don’t think obedience can bring joy. I have indeed experienced this. But I know a lot of people who are much much happier than I am but who have turned away from the Church and broken the commandments taught in it.

    I grew up reading a lot of Old Testament without adult supervision, and I think the result of this was an assumption that God was sort of out to get me. So it isn’t that hard for me to comprehend God inflicting pain, because I lived so much of my life believing he did. I have had to work very hard to have a view of a more loving God, and I have generally succeeded. Though I have had this shift, for some reason it still doesn’t bother me that God would cause intentional harm…he is like a refiner’s fire and fuller’s soap. I feel like he’s given me intentional harm before, but one of my favorite experiences (now…not so pleasant at the time) involved God basically saying to me about a situation I felt he wanted me to pursue: “Uh, you don’t really have to do this. Use you knowledge and decide if you can handle it.” I chose to do this thing, it hurt a huge amount, I railed against God for it, although I knew he’d warned me. At this point, I feel almost like it’s something I can look back on and joke with God about. If that makes any sense at all.

  4. 4.

    I think it is safe to answer the question in the title with a yes. But it is clear that God won’t ensure that happiness. God’s non-intervention is baffling at times. If I hadn’t had so much interaction with God I would doubt God’s existence along with the atheists.

  5. 5.

    I think God wants us to be whole (holy). I think that contains happiness, but goes far beyond what we generally think of as happiness. ~

  6. 6.

    But what happens when God asks us to do things that lead to increased suffering? What happens when obeying God or his commandments erases your sense of harmony and well-being? What happens when you make decisions you believe are God’s will, but you are left completely without the peace that you did the right thing?

    In my experience, I’m richly rewarded later on, and I’m made to recognize why that it’s a response to the previous decision that I agonized over… (This is just me.)

  7. 7.

    I’ve realized, thinking about this more, that there’s a peculiar kind of joy for me even in suffering IF I know it’s good for me or is a consequence of my choosing right.–the joy of knowing that somehow some good is someday going to come of the trial. Even if you don’t want to call it joy, I have no question that I’d rather be right and miserable than wrong and (temporarily, seemingly,) carefree.

    I also do fully believe God intends joy and happiness for us in this life, and also believe sometimes (even a lot of the time) life is, and is meant to be, very rocky indeed. I have no idea how I’m so comfortable with these contradictions, but I am.

  8. 8.

    Seraphine, I really like your making this point

    As I ponder my experiences of the past year, I recognize that someday I may find a miraculous ending, some higher purpose that will help everything make sense, or even a greater sense of peace and well-being. However, I have to accept that this kind of outcome is just as likely not to occur.

    Also Geoff, your comment:

    God’s non-intervention is baffling at times. If I hadn’t had so much interaction with God I would doubt God’s existence along with the atheists.

    Thinking about these together, I wonder if the dominance of the “suffering will eventually give way to happiness and joy and understanding” teaching in the Church isn’t (at least to some degree) an effect of selection. People for whom the suffering does end in joy are more likely to stay in the Church. People for whom it does not are more likely to leave (or become atheists altogether as Geoff alludes to). So the former group predominates in the Church, and teaches just-so stories about how things always turn out okay in the end, because for them it has.

    But, as Geoff also points out, God’s decisions to intervene or not in regards to our suffering can be baffling, so it’s not necessarily the case that those for whom suffering worked out in the end are the more righteous or deserving.

    I don’t know. I do hope that you eventually find peace and happiness, Seraphine, but I think you’re wise to admit the possibility that you may not.

  9. 9.

    Zina, I agree that most of the pain in this life comes from living in a fallen world, etc., etc. But because God told me to do some really hard things that (in my mind) were unnecessary and that caused me a lot of pain, I really have no issue translating that into “God caused me pain.” Now, there may be a reason for what God did, and it may actually have been necessary from his perspective (which is larger than my own). But in my mind, he was a pretty direct agent in my suffering.

    And for me this issue is not about being right and suffering as opposed to not right and carefree. Think of it in the following way: you are in a situation where there are two choices that are potentially right (i.e. neither involves sinning). God tells you to follow one path, and at the end of it, you realize the other path (which is the one you probably would have been inclined to take without God’s guidance) would have involved much less suffering and anguish. And you don’t really see any compelling reason for why God asked you to take the harder path (and from your perspective, lied to you in the process). What sense do you make of that?

  10. 10.

    Minerva, I agree that overstating the obedience = happiness equation can be harmful for people with depression issues. And your comments about reading the OT crack me up. I wish I were where you were at–that I could figure out how to be emotionally okay with a God that causes intentional harm. Rationally, this somewhat makes sense to me (especially with the caveats of we need to learn and grow, we should think about things eternally, etc.), but right now I’m struggling with the concept emotionally.

  11. 11.

    Geoff, I agree, though sometimes I wish my problem were that God is not intervening in my life. Unfortunately, my current problems have been caused by too much intervention, which is a related but different kettle of fish.

    Thomas, your comment is definitely what I think I believe. One thing I’m trying to work through is to what lengths do I believe God will go to in order to help us/me become holy? Will he do things that feel immoral or hurtful to us/me in order to advance this process? If so, how do you still trust Him?

  12. 12.

    queuno, I really hope that happens, though I’ve decided that it’s too emotionally destructive for me if I pin all my hopes on some kind of reward/answer.

    And Ziff, that’s an interesting observation that maybe the people for whom the standard narratives don’t work are the ones who leave. I’ve definitely been thinking a lot about the standard narratives that we use and how they aren’t sufficient for many situations/people.

  13. 13.

    But then again, if people leave, they don’t endure to the end to find out if there would have been a happy ending after all. And again, this is really a question of faith where religion is not objectively, scientifically provable, because if you do believe this is God’s church, then having stayed in the Church is of itself a happy ending. Or, in other words, as a matter of faith I personally believe that people are better off (“happier”) staying in the Church no matter how much in they eyes of mortal reason it appears they could have escaped suffering by leaving the Church.

    In regards to your God-told-me-to-take-the-worse-path scenario: If, as a matter of faith, you believe that God cannot and does not lie, and believe that whatever He tells you to do is by definition the better path, then it’s an impossible scenario. Also, since you can’t really know what would have happened if you’d taken Path B, you can only speculate that you’d have avoided pain and suffering that way, but the road not taken is actually unknowable.

    Again, I do believe that God asks hard things of us, but personally I believe he never asks the wrong thing of us. It’s not something I can prove; it’s something I believe.

  14. 14.

    the eyes, not they eyes

  15. 15.

    Zina, you’re right to point out that this is a matter of faith and belief. Which is why your “if you believe this, then ____ must be true” statements aren’t working for me. Belief doesn’t follow the rules of logic and I’m struggling with some of my fundamental beliefs because my experiences have called all of those into question.

    I’m not sure if God lied to me, and I’m not sure if I did take the better path. And this just isn’t a “scenario” for me–it’s a difficult and painful experience that has triggered the most severe crisis of faith I’ve ever experienced. And I’ll admit it–my faith is wearing a bit thin these days.

  16. 16.

    I want you to be happy, Seraphine. But then, it’s possible that I’m just nicer than God. ;)

  17. 17.

    Okay, setting aside my delusions of grandeur, I read something interesting a while back raising questions about the cultural ideal of happiness as the ultimate goal. His proposal was that meaning might actually be preferable. I’m mentioning this here because it seems to me–maybe?–that the problem for you is as much a lack of meaning as a lack of happiness. In other words, the misery and unhappiness is really lousy, but the lack of meaning is what makes the experience so intolerable. That’s what I think faith ideally does–it doesn’t bring happiness (necessarily), but rather gives some meaning to the unhappiness, so to speak. But that’s more my trying to think about the general question you’re asking than a comment on your situation really–since it was in fact your faith that got you into this mess, and I have no idea what to make of that.

    Reading this, it strikes me what a real risk faith is–it seems we often talk about it as if it weren’t really risky, because of course everything will ultimately turn out right in the end. But we don’t actually know that (or it wouldn’t be faith)–which is kind of a terrifying prospect. We talk about people running into trouble due to their lack of faith–but what about people who get so deeply hurt precisely because they take that risk and believe? It does pose some really hard questions about God.

  18. 18.

    Seraphine, I apologize if I sounded glib–I’m sure that if I were having a conversation with someone I knew in real life and knew the specifics of the painful circumstance, I’d be far more delicate with my response. It’s also always easier to resolve challenges of faith that aren’t our own. I’m sorry for whatever the circumstances are that are causing you so much distress, and hope that eventually they’ll have some sort of useful meaningfulness for you.

  19. 19.

    Seraphine, I don’t know what you are going through, but I can relate to some of your feelings — how it’s hard to go through so much pain and to think that could be a good thing, a godly thing. This year has been the hardest of my life. So much stuff, stress, pain. So much of it from trying to be faithful and obedient. So much that just felt too full of irony. So much wondering of ‘why?’

    I have an awesome therapist helping me through my stuff, and one thought I have as I read your post is related to something I talked to my therapist about today — that we, as mortals, by definition have layers that affect our ability to see things as they really are — ourselves, life, God. God can and will take us step by step, line upon line, if we let Him, to remove those layers. But sometimes that can really hurt. (That sounds trite, but I’m not speaking lightly here.) There have been times when the pain has been too great, and I wondered why God would allow it — sometimes it felt like it would consume me.

    But fwiw, with the help of this wise counselor and some other wise people who are helping me, I am seeing some purpose in it. I am coming to see that the pain is allowing me to challenge the way I have always seen myself, life, others, and especially God. I am realizing that in fact, the pain is an invitation to take a hard look at myself and my view of life and God and to start to weed out the things that for all my life have clouded my vision of myself and my relationship with God…not because I’m a bad person (which is where I always end up going), but simply because it’s the nature of our existence to have these layers. And faith to me is about peeling them off w/o losing my Center.

    I don’t know if that will apply to you, but in essence, the pain that has at times felt like torture is, for me, actually like the pain that gets a child to pull a hand from a hot stove — it is moving me to really seek to move away from some of the core issues that have caused pain my whole life, to weed out patterns of thought and behavior (not breaking major commandments behavior, but the more subtle character stuff that we all have and often don’t see). So many of these things have been so embedded in my way of living/functioning/thinking/reacting that I had no idea I could challenge them, or that they were the cause of so much of my suffering. The pain that has awakened me to this has been intense, though.

    So what is so weird is that it’s all opposite what my instinctual sense has been (this is too hard! this can’t be something from God because it hurts too much!) But as I try to weed out these layers of stuff in my life, I am catching glimpses of Who God really is, and how amazing He is. And how the pain really can be a blessing (if it doesn’t kill me first, of course…hehe). It’s SO hard to let go of my perception of what ‘should’ be and to try to let God work in my life and through the pain.

    A couple of talks come to mind (of course, right?). Pres. Faust quotes this little ditty (but read it in context, because it is more meaningful that way): “God loves us more than He loves our happiness.”

    Second is from Elder Wirthlin (his classic “Come What May And Love It” talk), that has been a significant anchor for me: “How can we love days that are filled with sorrow? We can’t—at least not in the moment. I don’t think my mother was suggesting that we suppress discouragement or deny the reality of pain. I don’t think she was suggesting that we smother unpleasant truths beneath a cloak of pretended happiness. But I do believe that the way we react to adversity can be a major factor in how happy and successful we can be in life.”

    Things like that can sound trite unless they become the lifeline to not giving up. That has been what this doctrine of opposition in all things has been for me. And a redefining of happiness…which it sounds like you may be sorting through as well.

    Hugs. Sorry for rambling. It’s all fresh on my mind right now…. And my answers may not be helpful or applicable, but I thought I would share, fwiw.

  20. 20.

    Seraphine,

    Have you ever read Neal Maxwell’s talk on irony?
    It’s one of the things I recall that kept me emotionally something like in touch with the church while I was outside the church. Not so much that it was helping me at the time … just knowing it had been given at all.

    I quote the first two lines:

    “What I now read is a most wintry verse indeed: “Nevertheless the Lord seeth fit to chasten his people; yea, he trieth their patience and their faith.” (Mosiah 23:21.)

    This very sobering declaration of divine purpose ought to keep us on spiritual alert as to life’s adversities.”

    http://www.lds.org/ldsorg/v/index.jsp?hideNav=1&locale=0&sourceId=805127cd3f37b010VgnVCM1000004d82620a____&vgnextoid=2354fccf2b7db010VgnVCM1000004d82620aRCRD

    Maybe help, maybe no. :) ~

  21. 21.

    Zina, thanks.

    m&m, thank-you for your response. I really like what you’ve shared, and I think there’s a lot of truth to it (and your insight is applicable to my experience). I think that painful experiences can teach us important lessons about ourselves and about God, and that the pain is sometimes necessary to become better versions of ourselves. As Lynnette said, it’s important to think about how meaning can be preferable over happiness, and I think that’s generally the case for me (though I’ve certainly wished for more happiness and less meaning in my worst moments).

    I guess what I’m struggling with is something that Lynnette discussed. I’ve actually found some meaning in my experiences the past few years that is helping me. There are certain things that are making sense to me, and I see how my experiences have made me a stronger, better person. But there are hard, difficult things in which I cannot find meaning. Or the meaning is utterly confusing (and the implications scary). And these are things that directly involve how God is involved in my life, which is the thing in my life that has been the most constant and meaningful up to this point in my life.

    I do realize that I may end up finding some kind of meaning, but as Lynnette said, my faith in a certain kind of meaning (because of what I’ve been taught about God–who He is and how He interacts with us)–is what’s causing me the most difficulties right now. And I’m really open to finding meaning in my pain, but at least for right now, that meaning is not apparent. I just have pain and a confusing mess.

    Lynnette, I like your comment that faith is a real risk. Like you said, we don’t often talk about that because we typically tell stories where things work out. I’m trying to tell myself, despite my difficulties, that even when things don’t work out, that risk is worth it. Some days I believe myself. :)

  22. 22.

    Thomas, interesting talk. It’s not directly applicable to the difficulties I’m having with God, but I think the general reminders that life isn’t fair, involves suffering, etc., are applicable.

  23. 23.

    And I’m really open to finding meaning in my pain, but at least for right now, that meaning is not apparent. I just have pain and a confusing mess.

    I understand. A void like that is hard. Hang in there (again, sounds trite, but I don’t mean it that way). I hope as you keep pounding on the doors of heaven that moments of clarity can come.

    I’m trying to tell myself, despite my difficulties, that even when things don’t work out, that risk is worth it.

    Interesting stuff, this life/faith thing. Whew.

  24. 24.

    English my most hated subject sigh…

    In darkness sometimes we see light and in light sometimes we see darkness. When I walk through the ashen forests of darkness and my soul shakes and wavers in iridescent purple night, sometimes I ask myself why I wander and has the lord forsaken my calls. Sitting in sacraments listening to sounds of joy and laughter, I feel even more alone.

    At times I feel when he is near, the warmth of his being. Him walking my footsteps and being sullen and sad as I am. Nights are long and thoughts to my mind dangerous. After the wars and battles sound into fading silence, in my guilt shame and horror I feel him. Like a brother waiting for my return, he says to me after taking me into his arms, the battle was hard, I know I was there. I do not want to return to fight again, but I know I must because I love him and as I return into the smoke filled world I know he is with me and in his loving arms I will return again.

    Centuries may pass, love can be taken away, and tears can carve rivers in my cheeks but his memory cannot be lost. My hands feeling his scared hands, enveloped and embraced by his light. Looking in his eyes and standing amongst him hearing him speak again. Knowing no matter what I do or which road I travel that he is love and that I am never alone.

    I cannot know your sorrow and I do not feel your pain, neither can I know your heart. What I can say is the he can and no matter the trial or afflictions set by the father or this world you will never be alone. Sometimes even I forget and get confused but his compassion always brings me solace. Fight, suffer, cry, laugh, and have joy but always remember you are loved greatly.

    Doesn’t really answer any of your questions about why somebody you feel loves you puts you in places and situations you would rather not be in but in my case I am stubborn and my heart is like cast iron. I hate English but my school always made me take English classes, supposedly for my benefit no matter how much I balked and complained. English to me is like slow torture, math always made sense and the answers were always the same. I couldn’t be who I am without those nasty English teachers always hating on my math teachers :)

  25. 25.

    I don’t agree with your last paragraph. Intellectually.

    Emotionally, I’ve felt exactly the same way. I’ve been so mad at God. I realized one day, though, that the bad things aren’t God’s will. They’re contrary to God’s will and usually happen because of somebody’s disobedience.

    For instance, my horrible childhood. If my parents had chosen not to drink and abuse each other and us, that never would have happened.

    The deaths of my first husband and son happened because we were drunk and careless of our child.

    James’ suicide—my abusiveness toward him, chiefly.

    I also realized that as I mourn for the lives of my children, each one of them can make their lives better if they make better decisions.

    So, although that talk was offensive to you, and I wonder if it was a self righteous tone in the speaker, he was right.

    Not that I implement that philisophy.

    But I’ve felt exactly the same way as you. So betrayed and bitter and angry at God. Then I just started thinking He just didn’t like us.

    Now I think we’re suffering for the mistakes of generations and I wonder where the buck stops.

  26. 26.

    I know that there are a lot of people who would disagree with me. I know that many would even call what I am about to say blasphemous. I am beginning to come to the conclusion that we give God too much credit for both the good and the bad.

    Being a parent has caused me to think more about God’s nature. The result of that is that I am not sure that God directs as much of the detail in our lives as we would sometimes like to think.

    I have met happy people who had some pretty ugly things in their lives. I have met very happy non-religous people. I have met miserable religious people.

    I believe that happiness, or that sense of well being, has more to do with emotional resilience than anything else. For some people emotional resilience is dependent on a religious faith. For others it might be something else. For some people emotional resilience can be beaten down by religious dogma.

    I believe that one can find the well being and happiness even if they don’t find all the answers.

  27. 27.

    Two thoughts:

    When one faces their demons this isn’t done in a day. It is done day after day after day after day until the battle is won… or lost.

    Even Jesus Christ asked the Father to let this cup pass from him. Even in perfection he didn’t want to do something, thats natural, he obeyed anyway… and if we read in 3 Nephi when he came back, after doing that hard and painful thing that he would’ve rather not done. He still taught the same things he did before.

  28. 28.

    Seraphine & all-

    Here’s a passage that continues to help me as I struggle with my own inadequacies, including those regarding my limited knowledge of the nature of Heavenly Father, and my struggle to give my whole will to Him. It’s long, but I couldn’t leave anything out. I hope it helps, if even just a little!

    “Of course we never wanted, and never asked, to be made into the sort of creatures He is going to make us into. But the question is not what we intended ourselves to be, but what He intended us to be when He made us. He is the inventor, we are only the machine. He is the painter, we are only the picture. How should we know what He means us to be like?…We may be content to remain what we call “ordinary people”: but He is determined to carry out a quite different plan. To shrink back from that plan is not humility; it is laziness and cowardice. To submit to it is not conceit or megalomania; it is obedience.

    “Here is another way of putting the two sides of the truth. On the one hand we must never imagine that our own unaided efforts can be relied on to carry us even through the next twenty-four hours as “decent” people. If He does not support us, not one of us is safe from some gross sin. On the other hand, no possible degree of holiness or heroism which has ever been recorded of the greatest saints is beyond what He is determined to produce in every one of us in the end. The job will not be completed in this life: but He means to get us as far as possible before death.

    “That is why we must not be surprised if we are in for a rough time. When a man turns to Christ and seems to be getting on pretty well (in the sense that some of his bad habits are now corrected), he often feels that it would now be natural if things went fairly smoothly. When troubles come along—illnesses, money troubles, new kinds of temptation—he is disappointed. These things, he feels, might have been necessary to rouse him and make him repent in his bad old days; but why now? Because God is forcing him on, or up, to a higher level: putting him into situations where he will have to be very much braver, or more patient, or more loving, than he ever dreamed of being before. It seems to us all unnecessary: but that is because we have not yet had the slightest notion of the tremendous thing He means to make of us…

    “Imagine yourself as a living house. God comes in to rebuild that house. At first, perhaps, you can understand what He is doing. He is getting the drains right and stopping the leaks in the roof and so on: you knew that those jobs needed doing and so you are not surprised. But presently He starts knocking the house about in a way that hurts abominably and does not seem to make sense. What on earth is He up to? The explanation is that He is building quite a different house from the one you thought of—throwing out a new wing here, putting on an extra floor there, running up towers, making courtyards. You thought you were going to be made into a decent little cottage: but He is building a palace. He intends to come and live in it Himself.

    “The command Be ye perfect is not idealistic gas. Nor is it a command to do the impossible. He is going to make us into creatures that can obey that command. He said (in the Bible) that we were ‘gods’ and He is going to make good His words. If we let Him – for we can prevent Him, if we choose – He will make the feeblest and filthiest of us into a god or goddess, a dazzling, radiant, immortal creature, pulsating all through with such energy and joy and wisdom and love as we cannot imagine, a bright stainless mirror which reflects back to God perfectly (though, of course, on a smaller scale) His own boundless power and delight and goodness. The process will be long and in parts very painful, but that is what we are in for. Nothing less. He meant what He said.” -Mere Christianity, 108-109

    Thoughts?

  29. 29.

    I knew that was CS Lewis. I’m going to be with him when I die.

  30. 30.

    Seraphine,
    I do not usually comment, but I love to read all of the things that you and your family post on here.

    I do not know the nature of all things. I don’t even know if there’s a God who loves his children. But in my little life so far, I’ve come to accept some things. Pure love contains all the joys AND aches of human existence. Sorrow has taught me about love: I have learned compassion, empathy, as I mourn for myself and others, and WITH others who *mourn. It is purifying. And that, I suppose, is the goal in my life, to dwell in, to be a vessel for, pure love.

    If a God (of love) does exist, I would imagine that god is as much a god of joy as of sorrow.

    *and laughing with those who laugh – let’s not forget the purifying effects of sincere laughter!

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