“I delight to do your will, O my God; your law is within my heart” (Psalm 40:8)
When I was in the Navy, I had a particular day that had me pretty upset. We had just been underway on a small deployment; I was working long hours and every 4th day we were spending 24 hours on the boat guarding it. I was probably just starting one of those days and I was tired of my life. I remember starting to complain about how much work we did for so little pay, and a chipper 1st Class Petty Officer chimed in and declared “a day’s wage for a day’s work shipmate!” His name was MM1 Dillard.
I despised that man. How could someone be so moronic? I remember staring back at him in disbelief. We were in the same situation, yet he acted like he actually liked being there! Because of my own poor attitude, I could only conclude that this poor man had a screw loose. Truly his long hours and days in that dreaded place of tight overcrowded living space and no sunlight had caused him to snap.
There was nothing nice about living on a submarine. Long days at sea made even the memories of home like torture. The best it seemed you could do was to forget about home and find pitiful reasons to cheer your spirits. Although a good laugh with your shipmates or a good movie on the mess decks could distract you from where you were it would always fade when you walked through the narrow passageways of that small uninteresting place.
Life was so hellishly mundane that even when you were away from the boat, the reality that you had to go back to your duties tended to overshadow the fun you could be having. It seemed like the happiest people were people who didn’t live on submarines… well, them and that deranged First Class Petty Officer I mentioned.
Why am I sharing this?
I have met a lot of Christians who have the same attitude toward their own lives as I remember having about my own. When you meet happy Christians, you may tend to assess that they either have no real problems or that they do and they are simply deranged.
Near the end of my enlistment, I met another Sailor who happened to be the last Lead Petty Officer of my division. He, like MM1 Dillard, had a similar enjoyment of his life on board that boat. He too was positive and oddly happy with his situation. When I asked him why he was so gung ho, he started to explain why he loved being a sailor so much. Then it hit me. He actually loved the Navy. He wasn’t crazy! He loved what he did. The watch, the training, the missions, he loved it all. I interrupted his happy explanation with “wait, you really love the Navy, don’t you?” He responded “yup”. My mind was blown.
You know, people actually like being Christian? They love the hardship, the persecution, and the life circumstances, all of it. They are like the Psalmist! They truly delight in this life! More than that, they delight to do God’s will. Do you know why? It’s because they truly love Jesus.
Sometimes, those old feelings I got from being on the sub come back. I live in Utah, I am surrounded by people that seem inconvincible, I’ve been here for nearly 3 years and despite sharing the Gospel over and over again, our Church is barely 50 strong. When those feelings creep up, I remember that joy doesn’t come by the circumstances I am in. It comes directly from the Lord and that joy is what causes me to delight in doing his will. When I confess my selfish heart to the Lord, in an instant, I go from being a griping laborer in the field who only longs for the comfort of his bed to a farmer who truly takes joy in being a farmer. I love being a Pastor/Barber. I love the long hours at the shop, the hours studying the Word, and the hours being a Father and a husband that Jesus would approve of.
The Christian was never promised to have an easy life. Jesus said that unless a person gives up what they have, they couldn’t have what he gives (Matthew 16:25). So many of us are missing the opportunity we have! We have the opportunity to really enjoy what we do! It’s as simple as replacing the attitude of doing things for the glory of self with doing all things with thanksgiving to God (Colossians 3:17). Yes, you can be happy! Despite your circumstances, your depressed state is likely from living the Christian life while clinging to the hopes of your own life. Let it go! Embrace the grace of God and choose to be about his will instead of your own.
Christians have hard lives, but Christians were meant to be happy. If you’re a Christian and you’re not happy, you’re the one with a screw loose.
“Blessed be the man who makes the LORD his trust, who does not turn to the proud, to those who go astray after a lie! You have multiplied, O LORD my God, your wonderous deeds and your thoughts toward us; none can compare with you! I will proclaim and tell them, yet they are more than can be told” –Psalm 40:4-5
We have more to be thankful to God for than we have the ability to recite. Why spend time meditating on what you don’t have when you can revel in what you do have!