Every day as a father and husband I am faced with a choice. Will today be a day where I set my individual happiness as my primary goal or will I set the health and development of my family and marriage as my primary goal? Of course these two priorities overlap at points, but they definitely diverge at other points.
For example before I was married it was not unusual for me to take an entire day off and play through a videogame. If I did that on my next day off even if I was able to enjoy myself despite the death glares from Meghan and the requests for attention from the kids, the health of my family and marriage would suffer.
Or consider another example. Before Simeon was born I had never held a baby, nor had I ever changed a diaper. The prospect of getting spit up on and changing diapers was unpleasant for me. I would go so far as to say holding Simeon and change his diaper caused me anxiety and unhappiness. If I was solely focused on my own happiness I would not likely have held Simeon as much, and I certainly wouldn’t have changed his diapers. Those discussions may have led to my short term happiness but they would have been causing damage to the health of my family and marriage.
Sometimes short term happiness has to be sacrificed to gain a greater happiness in the long run. Even though I still enjoy some time to myself I have come to enjoy family time more. And while I won’t say that diaper changes bring me happiness, having been doing them now for about 4.5 years they don’t cause me stress anymore.
When we look at the Jesus’ teaching about the beatitudes I think we are seeing a very similar principle at work. Jesus tells us that we are blessed if we are; poor in spirit, mourn, are meek, hungry and thirst for righteousness, show mercy, are peacekeepers and are persecuted for following Jesus’ example.
A lot of what Jesus is telling us to do here seems unpleasant. Even the stuff that doesn’t seem so bad at first can be quiet hard when we have to put it into action. Like being merciful. There is more than one person in my life that I don`t want to forgive or show any kind of mercy.
And yet even though each of these qualities are without a doubt hard and will likely cause some manner of unhappiness they are the things that Jesus calls blessed.
We are blessed when we are poor in spirit because when we accept the need for God in our lives instead of covering it up or ignoring it we will find God.
We are blessed when we mourn, because when we admit our loss we can find comfort in what really matters
We are blessed when we are meek, because then we will stop demanding our own way all the time and accept God’s will in our lives.
We are blessed when we hunger and thirst for righteousness, because God will give us more than we could ask for.
We are blessed when we are merciful, because when we show mercy God will show us mercy.
We are blessed when we have a pure in heart, because when we put sin away we can have a deeper relationship with God.
We are blessed when we are peacemakers, because that shows we really are part of God’s family.
We are blessed when people say or do unkind things to us because of our faith, because that helps to make our faith even deeper
Can we be blessed and not happy? Yes in the short term showing mercy, allowing out hurts to be known, evening acting as a peacemaker can bring sadness, anger, and hurt feelings. Just like in the short term changing diapers caused me nausea and stress.
Yet as we enter into the blessings Jesus offers we will find that a deeper happiness will develop. One that will not be affected by outside circumstances, that will not diminish when things are hard and will not be forgotten when things are good.
When we chose to be blessed instead of happy we get to be both blessed and happy. When we chose to chase happiness instead of blessings, we will spend our whole lives chasing it.
This blog post only slightly adapted from the sermon I gave July 7th 2013 at Sackville Baptist`s new 30 minute services. During the month of July at 6:00 pm on Sunday we are piloting these casual, and efficient services. They are great for beginners or for those vacationing over the weekend. If you live in the Halifax Regional Municipality please consider visiting us.You can listen to the full sermon here.