OceanSide church of Christ
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UNHAPPY CHRISTIAN LIVES
Victor M. Eskew
The title of this article is somewhat troubling. The Christian life is supposed to be a life filled with spirit and animation. It is designed to give a person’s life meaning and joy. In John 10:10 Jesus said: “I am come that they might have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.” Jesus’ vicarious death took place to assure those who accept its benefits of an abundant life.
The abundant life is not the life that many are experiencing in Christ. Instead of joy, there is depression. Instead of peace, there is struggle. Instead of vibrancy, there is dreariness. Instead of excitement, there is boredom. The negativity that rules their life is seen in their countenance, their conduct, and their interaction with others. Are there answers to this discrepancy? Why are Christians, who are supposed to be happy, so unhappy? This author believes that the answers are numerous. We will seek to examine a few in the paragraphs that follow.
One of the primary causes of unhappiness in Christian lives is divided loyalty. There are some Christians who were baptized into Christ who have not given themselves completely to Him. Since they have become Christians, they believe there are things they “must” do. These responsibilities are two-fold. First, they are required to attend the A.M worship service. Second, they must put a little money in the collection plate. Note, these things are done solely out of obligation and not from a heart filled with love for God. Their doing of these things keeps their family, the preacher, and the elders off their back. While they do these things, there is no joy or fulfillment therein. They think of hundreds of other places they would rather be. Their divided heart adversely affects their relationships with their brothers and sisters in Christ. It is a surface relationship that they sustain. They know a “few” people who sit in their section of the auditorium. They shake hands with one or two on their way to the car. No one, however, really becomes their friend.
Jesus knew this type of situation could exist in our lives. He addressed it in Matthew 6:24. “No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will hold to the one and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon.” Jesus’ contrast is stern. It is an either/or proposition. Two masters cannot be served. One either hates the one and loves the other, or, vice versa. Friend, it is impossible to pretend your loyalty to Christ. Your unhappiness in His service shows your disdain for Him.
Another reason some Christians are miserable is because they continue to live in some trauma of the past. Life is not always a pleasurable experience. There are events that can happen in our lives that take the wind out of our sails. When Job was going through his ordeal, he said: “Man that is born of women is of few days and full of trouble” (Job 14:1). Solomon described man’s life in this manner: “For all his days are sorrows, and his travail grief: yea, his heart taketh not rest in the night. This also is vanity” (Eccl. 2:23). Paul also understood the hardships of living. In II Corinthians 5:4, he wrote: “For we that are in this tabernacle do groan, being burdened…” Death, divorce, betrayal, the loss of a job, financial ruin, a disobedient child, and physical illnesses are just a few of the traumas that can negatively impact us.
This writer has seen many negative reactions to life’s difficulties. Some go into a state of constant depression. Some become embittered. Anger seeps into almost every aspect of their life. Some enter into a state of longing for the joy of the past. They remember how it used to be. They want that back even though the past can never return. Some seek to take control of their lives. They are determined never to be hurt again. They feel they must control their emotions, their actions, their situations, and the people who come into their lives. Those who practice these types of reactions are never happy. Their past controls them.
The answer to their plight is found in two verses, Philippians 3:13-14 and I Peter 5:7. Paul instructs us to forget the past and press on to the prize before us. “Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.” Peter, on the other hand, tells us to cast all our cares, worries, and anxieties upon God instead of trying to carry them ourselves. “Casting all your care upon him: for he careth for you.” These instructions involve a choice. Sadly, many will choose to hold on to the trauma of years gone by. Their choice will keep them unhappy, disgruntled, and discouraged.
A third reason some people are so unhappy is because they have allowed too many things to control them. They are controlled by debt. They are controlled by their business. They are controlled by a relationship. They are controlled by responsibilities that are not really theirs to bear. They are controlled by bad habits. The control these things have over them takes the joy out of their lives. They cannot experience the joy of God’s control because these other things have them trapped.
One needs to come to understand that nothing can control him/her unless that person chooses to give that control. In order to regain happiness, one must regain control of his life. Some individuals do not see “how” this can be done. It will involve a great deal of effort. It may require months or years of time. It may involve hurting the feelings of others. These negatives often keep the person from moving forward.
The young ruler of Luke 18 was in bondage to his riches. Jesus knew his plight and instructed him, saying: “Yet lackest thou one thing: sell that thou hast, and distribute unto the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come, and follow me” (Luke 18:23). Matthew’s account reveals that he went away sorrowful (Matt. 19:22). He went away still trapped by his wealth. He did not experience the freedom and joy found in following Jesus. Zacchaeus was just the opposite in his actions. He, too, was wealthy. He, too, had been trapped. He was willing, however, to get out of his slavery. “And Zacchaeus stood, and said unto the Lord: Behold, Lord half of my good I give to the poor; and if I have taken any thing from any man by false accusation, I restore him fourfold” (Luke 19:8). In the next verse, Jesus declared: “This day is salvation come to this house.” Zacchaeus experienced the liberation of obeying God and made Him the sole ruler of his life.
My Christian friend, are you experiencing the true joy of being in Christ? If not, what his hindering your happiness? Are you trying to serve two masters? Are you living in the hurt of the past? Are you in bondage to things other than the God of heaven? These things can rob you of the bliss of Christianity. If you choose to allow these things to negatively impact your life, please do not blame the religion of Christ for you misery.