“Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me.”
Well-meaning Christians sometimes say things like, “Believe in Jesus, and he will make you happy,” or, “I believe in Jesus, and I am happy all the time.”
This can be discouraging, because there are many Christians who are not ecstatically happy. But Jesus did not die to make you emotionally ecstatic. He is not a “happy-pill.”
Following Jesus involves the grit of daily self-denial. To follow Jesus is to abandon all lesser goals and pleasures and to surrender to the ways of the kingdom of God.
If by “happiness” you mean that you have your life, your plans, and your possessions all stacked up like an ice-cream sundae—and Jesus is the cherry on top, then you will be most disappointed. You cannot gain the world and its idea of “the good life” and have Jesus too. Life with Jesus involves tears, struggles, sacrifice, and holy commitment.
Strangely, though, in this self-denial, you find that God gives you back your “very self”— your soul.
Within your soul, you experience things that make you rich. You experience joy and peace at a funeral; you see Christians face illness with dignity and power; you experience how people love each other with an eternal love that doesn’t quit. When your life is full of these things, you are happier, much happier.
Lord, I know my life is full of imitation happiness. But I desire the real thing: Christ in my soul. Hear me and receive me, in his name. Amen.
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