Why am I having such a hard time being happy when, as a follower of Christ, I’ve got so much to be thankful for?
Yes, it’s true that we have so much to be thankful for. After all, God has given us salvation, forgiveness, love, and the promise of future paradise. Still, somewhere deep inside, is a nagging gloom and we wonder if our faith is weak because we aren’t happier with our lives.
But the sorrow is there, not because we’re doing something wrong, but because we live in a broken world; a place where we can’t experience all God has to offer us. It’s a sign to us that we were made for heaven, for eternity with God.
The apostle Paul tells us that we were created for far better things than this world has to offer. He writes:
“We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies” (Romans 8:22-23).
And then again, Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 5:2-6:
“Meanwhile we groan, longing to be clothed with our heavenly dwelling, because when we are clothed, we will not be found naked. For while we are in this tent, we groan and are burdened, because we do not wish to be unclothed but to be clothed with our heavenly dwelling, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life. Now it is God who has made us for this very purpose and has given us the Spirit as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come. Therefore we are always confident and know that as long as we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord.”
Sometimes the yearning for God is too deep for words. We struggle to be happy, but we know that this place is contaminated with a sense of brokenness and futility. Working harder, doing better, serving longer, won’t take the edge off our sorrow. It lingers. And it won’t go away until the day our redemption is complete. Even our highest accomplishments feel pointless after awhile. (Ecclesiastes 1:1-9). Nothing lasts here and nothing fully satisfies us.
The result of being claimed by God, but not yet living with Him, is sorrow. But not sorrow alone. It’s also mixed with anticipation. We eagerly anticipate being with our heavenly Father. We are cut off from our heavenly Father; not in a spiritual sense, but in the sense that, now, we can’t experience the total joy of living in His presence today. We’re adopted, but not yet living with our Abba Father. It’s like an abandoned child who’s been adopted but is still living in an orphanage, eagerly waiting for her new parents to embrace her and take her home. She lives with a yearning, a longing to be with her family. And so do we. We may not always be fully aware of how deeply we long for this, but we too anticipate being with our Father. The Holy Spirit comforts us, but until we’re fully redeemed, we live with an inner hunger that’s not completely satisfied.
For now, because of the discrepancy between God’s claim on us and living in a broken world, we’re frustrated, feeling out of sorts. This frustration, though, shouldn’t alarm us. It’s a sign of good things to come. When we realize that it’s natural to feel sad and dissatisfied and that we won’t be happy all the time, we can allow our groaning to be a sign of hope for great things to come, and we can allow it to draw us closer to our Lord. When we feel the groan of our soul, we can find comfort knowing that we will someday see our Lord and Savior face to face (1 Corinthians 13:12).
It’s the person who is oblivious to this alienation in nature and within us, this endless cycle of decay, who is in greater danger than the one who’s painfully aware of this separation from God. The unaware person sees this frustration as grounds for despair and he may live his life trying to quiet his groaning through sex, relationships, money, work, or any kind of pleasure. But he finds that there is nothing here on this earth that can reach down far enough into his soul and fulfill him. At that point he has a choice—to recognize his longing as a sign of better things to come, or deny the groaning in his heart and continue his futile effort to have paradise now.
It’s natural to feel unhappy from time to time. But this is good news, because this burden or groaning fuels our hope and lets us know that God intends to make everything right. It reminds us that nothing material in this world can satisfy us. God Himself satisfies us (Psalm 90:14; 103:2-5; 107:9). Given that fact, Christians can use their longings to draw them closer to God and further away from the flesh. God will free us from the slavery of corruption and completely restore us.
Let’s not stress over the pangs of loneliness and sadness when they invade our hearts, but let us have joy because we know that far better things are in store for us. Through the sufferings of this world, we become more like God’s son, Jesus (James 1:1-4).