For the most part, people want to be happy. In fact the US Constitution says the pursuit of happiness is an inalienable right given by God. Nevertheless, happiness seems elusive.
Some say happiness is appreciating what you have, others that is is to stop caring about anything. Some say happiness is surrounding yourself with family and friends, and some economist theorizes that embracing the rat race–not escaping it–makes us happier.
I heard this from my former pastor some time ago.
A truck driver stopped at a diner for lunch. Three bikers, covered with tats and piercings and dressed in studded leather, watched him take a seat at the counter. When the trucker’s food came, the bikers left their table and sauntered up to the counter.
One grabbed up the trucker’s burger. “Just the way I like it,” he said, and took a big bite.
The second scooped up the trucker’s fries. “I need a little something to snack on,” he said.
The trucker glared at the two men downing his food but said nothing.
The third man swooped up the trucker’s cola. “I’m a tad thursty,” he said, and gulped down half the drink.
Slowly the truck driver rose. He motioned to the waitress for his check, followed her to the register, and paid.
As he walked from the diner, the bikers howled with laughter as they finished off his lunch. “Not much of a man, is he,” the first one said to the waitress.
“I don’t know about being much of a man, but he’s not much of a truck driver, that’s for sure. He just ran over three bikes.”
Some people think happiness lies in good old revenge. Part of me likes payback, too. It makes me feel justice has been served, and I like that.
Unless I’m the one due justice. The times I mess up, the last thing I want is justice. When it’s me waiting for the sentence to fall, I want one thing–forgiveness.
Believe it or not, forgiveness is the secret to happiness, and not just receiving forgiveness but giving it out as well.
As I’ve written here at A Christian Worldview of Fiction in the past, we all stand in need of forgiveness–hence the adage, Nobody’s perfect.
We can rationalize our sins as quirks or foibles or character flaws. We can promise we’ll do better, we’ll make things right some day, we’ll compensate with acts of kindness and generosity. We’ll try harder. And we hope it’s enough–that the people in our lives won’t get sick of us or tired of waiting for us to get our act together.
But honestly, we give up on ourselves from time to time. So we hide out–in work or sex or a bottle. Of course that puts us in need of more forgiveness, and the burden becomes heavier.
God has provided the forgiveness we need.
The reality is, God knew all this, loved us while we were in the midst of the mess we were making, and gave His Son Jesus to pay for every lawbreaking, rebellious thought, attitude, or action in our lives. Nothing for you to do, God says. Jesus took care of your debt. You just confess your sins, and He is faithful and righteous to forgive them all (1 John 1:9).
So that’s the magic word: forgiveness.
When we receive forgiveness, we have the impetus to go out and forgive others.
Rather than living with debilitating bitterness and desires for revenge, we can be as free from the wrong others do as if we sat in their trial and saw the judge hand down a just sentence against them.
Why? Because God said He would repay.
If they confess their sin, then Jesus’s blood will be their payment. If they cling to their rebellion, they will face ultimate judgment.
My holding a grudge? I’m the only loser. My repaying evil for evil? I’m the loser.
Look at Christians who survived horrible things and forgave those who caused them–Corrie ten Boom, Elisabeth Elliot, Gracia Burnham, Kent Whitaker (author of Murder by Family, see “The Compelling Quality of Love”). Their lives of joy and service speak volumes. They reaped ten-fold, and counting, the benefits of their forgiveness.
Who wants to be happy? Pretty much everyone. The real secret to happiness is accepting God’s forgiveness through Jesus Christ, and then forgiving those who are just as imperfect as we are.
This post first appeared here in July 2012.