The other day, I overheard someone talking about the importance of appearing joyful so that people would ask us Christians, “What’s different about you?” The idea is that if we’re acting different (happier) than everyone else, they will want to become Christians too so that they can also partake in this inexplicable joy. I am very thankful that I was not converted in this way because I think I would have been sorely disappointed. While faith in Christ does offer a deep-seated joy, it certainly does not promise happiness in the traditional sense. I still feel sadness, anger and all the other unpleasant emotions that accompany the human experience.
So, this had me thinking… “Why did I become a Christian?”
I’ll tell you one thing, at 16, I didn’t become a Christian to become a “Christian” at all. I didn’t adopt my faith because I wanted to be different or even because I wanted my life to change.
I became a Christian because I didn’t have a choice.
No, I wasn’t a part of some crazy cult that forced their beliefs down my throat. I was just an ordinary teenager. Admittedly, I was disgruntled with popularity and wealth. I knew in the depths of my being that there had to be more to life than fake ID’s and designer jeans. OK, so, maybe I wasn’t a typical teenager… Regardless, when I looked around me, I knew there had to be some greater purpose worth living for. I was discontent. This started me on an intellectual journey of faith. I studied religions. I talked with people. What I didn’t do was search for who seemed the happiest. I searched for what was REAL. I wanted to find the true purpose in life, the cure for my discontent.
Many people and religions claim to offer the meaning of life. Even atheists find ways to make meaning from suffering. Christianity isn’t unique in that regard. However, there are a couple of things that do set Christianity apart.
One is that Christianity is the only religion that offers hope for me as an imperfect being. All other religions require various rituals to obtain “holiness” or to come in contact with the divine. Jesus broke through all of that nonsense. Which leads me to the second difference between Christianity and other religions: God came down to us. Christianity is the only religion in which God incarnate (Jesus) physically came to Earth to pursue relationship with us. All other religions require us trying to reach God.
There is one other thing, and this is THE thing that made me a believer: Jesus’ existence was undeniable. No historian on Earth will tell you that Jesus didn’t truly walk amongst us. As I dug deeper, I became more convinced that Jesus was not only real, but he was who he claimed he was. Meaning: Jesus was truly the Son of God.
Ultimately, what led me to become a Christian was Christ. There was just too much evidence to deny him. My conversion wasn’t because I liked Jesus the most (although, he is pretty awesome) or because people I liked believed in him. It was solely because logically, I couldn’t ignore the evidence. Now, the thing about Jesus is he will slowly but surely wreck your life. So, once I realized that he was for real, by default, I began adopting a new lifestyle. I began to see things differently.
But what I didn’t become, was happier.
Don’t get me wrong, there were some things about Jesus that made me really excited… like Heaven for example. But I wouldn’t say that I was brimming over with joy to the point that people were wondering what had changed in me. At least no one said anything to me anyway. I’ll be honest and say that Christianity hasn’t even been a “cure” for my discontent. But you know, I’m ok with that. I am now a follower of Christ but I’m still human. I’m still messy… who am I kidding? I’ll ALWAYS be messy. I may not be winning people over with my charming optimism but God still uses me.
Something I’ve been trying to remember is this: If it’s in His will to be known by someone, He will see to it that He is known.
God doesn’t NEED me.
I don’t need to conjure joy in order to be a better witness for Him. If someone is truly seeking, they will find truth. We don’t need to sugarcoat anything for Him. I think it is authenticity that is appealing to non-believers. We know that God feels sorrow too. I don’t imagine that Jesus was skipping around with a smile on his face all of the time (or at all really). No, Jesus was unashamedly authentic. Sometimes he was happy, other times he was sad, and mostly he seems to have been content. Maybe it’s ok for us to display the emotional diversity of the human experience also.
So, that’s what God has been doing with me. He’s been humbling me to be real in front of others. To not pretend like I have it all together or like I’m immune to the sorrows of life. It’s scary to be real sometimes. I wonder if people think, “What’s the point of being a Christian? Look at her, she’s not any happier than me!” But God is showing me gently that it’s ok if I’m not drawing people to Him in that way… because that way isn’t real. I would be faking it because I’m not happy all of the time now that I’m a Christian. People don’t need happiness anyway. People need Truth. “Happiness” can be found in any lifestyle. Truth can only be found in Him.
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