There are many claims made by Christians that the only way to achieve true happiness is through a relationship with Jesus Christ. (ironically other people of other religions claim to find true happiness with their own Gods). I used to believe the same thing at one point, but after over 30 years of genuinely following Jesus Christ and losing my faith, I began to reevaluate my life and I learnt something by doing this. I learnt that happiness doesn’t come from any perceived relationship with any God. It has nothing to do with how holy you are or how much time you spend worshipping God. It has everything to do with whether you have good healthy relationships with REAL people. And I bet if you look back on your life you will see the same thing.
Happy people seem to have similar things in common. Maybe a good spouse or partner who values them – a relationship built on trust, one where there is no abuse. Maybe a great friend or two who is always there when you need them – one you can rely on when the going gets tough. Maybe loving supporting family who build up your self-esteem . When I see happy people I see people with at least some of these things. The happiest have all of these things. It doesn’t matter whether you’re a Christian, an atheist, a Muslim, no matter what your religion or creed, you are unlikely to find happiness if you don’t have at least one of those things. Look around you. Look at the people you know. You’ll see it’s true, especially with those people in your church who seem to have it all together. Compare them to the ones who always seem to have everything wrong in their life.
I think back to my life and the times I was happiest. I DID have good healthy relationships at different points and was very happy. The saddest, most miserable times were when I didn’t have them. When I was lonely. I can remember well, for the space of about a year or two. I was single, away from home and only had one real friend and even then we didn’t talk about personal stuff and yes part of that was my own fault. During that time was a time that I spent really seeking God more than ever. I spent time studying the bible, praying, attending church twice a week, going to prayer meetings, involving myself in ministries. At the time I believed I was really drawing closer to God. I was really getting to know him better, strengthening my faith, becoming more knowledgeable, receiving so called revelations and epiphanies. For me it as a pivotal point in my life when it came to my faith. I later went on to leadership roles in my church.
But was I happy during that time? Not in the least. None of it made me happy. I was miserable most of the time and crying out to God on a regular basis. Jesus certainly wasn’t bringing me joy and peace. There was no gentle hand of God supporting me. Funnily enough I met my future wife shortly after and thus began one of the happiest times of my life.
I have been involved in leadership in churches I have belonged to. I have even run cell groups. Over the years I got to see firsthand just how little joy and peace Christianity was bringing to people and looking back I can now see exactly why they were unhappy and it wasn’t because they didn’t have a good relationship with Jesus Christ. It was because they didn’t have good relationships with REAL people. I saw lonely people. People with no one but the church to fall on for support. Emotionally needy people who needed other Christians to encourage them because they didn’t have any relationships with people who could do that for them. I saw people in failing and abusive relationships. I saw people who struggled to develop good friendships with others in the church. If God really was all he was cracked up to be why were these people not filled with the joy of the lord? And no, I’m not gonna accept the argument that they weren’t true Christians. I knew how genuine many of them were and how much they desired to please and serve God. The Holy Spirit was all that was needed and they supposedly had that when they repented and gave their lives to Christ.
There are many people out there who claim that God made a difference in their lives. That God took them out of their misery, cleaned up their lives and gave them joy. What’s the bet their sudden will to change came from a new outlook on life, a real desire to change and a ready support group there to encourage them? Sometimes it takes hitting rock bottom and having a guts full of your current situation before you finally decide to take some actions to clean things up. Only once there is a real desire to change will you change. And how empowering is it to believe that you have a supernatural being behind you? It always helps too when you have people there encouraging you rather than dragging you back down.
People who come to churches often find a ready and willing support group of clean living people, people who don’t have the problems they do. People who want to take them under their wing. They have this wonderful support by wonderful people and their esteem is built up. They think they’ve really found a wonderful family in the church. But how often do those people end up regressing and sinking back into despair? How often do they backslide and leave the church?
When people are treated like a mission field, or a pet project, then the chances of them regressing are very strong and let’s face it, people like that are often looked upon that way because most Christians wouldn’t associate with them otherwise. In cell groups leaders and others in the group often have these people forced upon them and even though they might not like them they have a job to do and that’s befriend, mentor and encourage these people. Once these people become settled into the church, those who mentored them see that their job is done, so they move on to someone else. Sometimes they may even see that person as a lost cause and give up on them. I’ve seen this so many times in churches. People who were welcomed in with open arms and then shunned by people later because they didn’t quite fit in or just wouldn’t take the advice and instructions they were given. They moved to a different cell group or a different church? Fine! There was no need to have to associate with them anymore. They were someone else’s problem now.
Make no bones about it. Jesus ain’t doing anything in the church. It has everything to do with the people in the church and the relationships between them.
My challenge to anyone reading this, whether happy or miserable is to look back on your life and think about the times you were happiest and the times you were the most miserable. What did each of those times have in common? When you were happiest were there strong healthy relationships with people? When you were the most miserable, what was going on in your personal relationships then?