You don’t want to let one new idea ruin your life. So be careful ordering your life around a new trend or the latest book. One advantage of “getting old” (this is Carol) is the perspective of how trends come and go while the truth of the Scripture remains the same.
Back in the 1800’s in England, Hannah Smith had a new idea. Her book, “The Christian’s Secret To A Happy Life,” lit up the Christian world. No wonder with a promise like that! Conferences sprang up to spread its teaching; it was heralded as THE answer to the Christian’s struggle with sin. Who wouldn’t want to be happy all the time? Who wanted to “stay” in Romans 7, hating yourself because you had to struggle against sin? She basically said that if you turned from your attitude or act of sin, God would ALWAYS reward you with strength to overcome. Indeed, you would live the “Victorious Life!” Suppose you had adopted this view as a new Christian? And then found that it didn’t always work for you….so you thought you really weren’t saved after all and went through trying and trying to be a REAL, VICTORIOUS Christian over and over?
Another book during the 1970’s did similar damage. Tim LaHaye took a current psychology theory about personality calling it “The Spirit-Filled Temperament.” His thesis was that as you matured along the Christian path, your natural temperament’s weaknesses would be changed and you would be a “new man in Christ.” I analyzed my own temperament and then waited for it to change. I was naturally anxious so I expected that to soon disappear. I also analyzed others’ temperaments and then wondered how those older than me could still have all the weaknesses listed on their chart! “Maybe, they just have never been Christians at all,” I thought. I made some unwise judgments on sincere people. My own tendency toward worry didn’t evaporate either. I soon wished I’d never read the book. It was no better than Hannah’s happy life!
Both of these books failed to deal with the problem of sin in a biblical matter. There have been times when I have been totally delivered from anxiety…in a flash sometimes….HAPPY DAY!! Then another time or event, the old anxiousness comes along again and no matter how much I pray, I am fearful. Some days I am simply not happy. Sometimes I seriously sin. I learned through experience what I had often confessed: that the Bible is a much more truthful book than most best sellers. What might be coming next that would be better left alone?
As I reflect on what Carol has written above (this is Gabriella), I think about my generation and the “follow your heart” phenomenon. This is the idea that you have full license to do what makes you happy and that you are entitled to that happiness. This is a secular idea that has seeped into our theology.It leads me to confuse “unhappiness” with the Holy Spirit’s direction and think of discomfort as a reason to run.
In many ways I think this philosophy of self-love and happiness is beneficial to one’s feelings of well-being, especially those who are oppressed. However, it is a mistake to confuse worldly pleasure with what will bring us real JOY. Chasing the world’s idea of happiness is a never ending sprint that will leave you exhausted, and so instead, seek things that will bring true and long-term joy.
I am certainly still on this journey of distinguishing between “happiness” and JOY. A good check for me is where I am putting my faith at any given moment. Am I relying on this new item of clothing to sustain me, or is it just a nice thing I am indulging i? Am I giving thanks to God for the ability to take a break after a long week, or am I patting myself on the back for all of my hard work? Sometimes its a combination of both. Being aware of your true intentions and desires is half the battle. I find myself constantly praying TO God for the strength to trust IN him.
Seems kind of silly, but this lowers the bar for me. My God is so big and I am so small. I can pray to him for the wisdom to pray to him in times of weakness, unhappiness, or discomfort! I’m not in this walk alone, trying to discern between right and wrong, and awaiting punishment if, in my weakness, I make a bad decision. Our God desires to walk WITH us, not arbitrary lord OVER us.
This is where I turn when I am faced by the world’s, or even Christian, philosophies that seem too good to be true. The plain and simple gospel in the Bible is already too good to be true! I’ll just stick with Jesus.