God: Happiness Facilitator?

Things are not always as they appear to be.

Want a happy life?  Win the lottery (or so says the advertising).  The reality?  According to the National Endowment for Financial Education (nefe.org) 70% of lottery winners who win substantial prize money are bankrupt within three to five years.  Many complain they wish they never won the money.  Winning the lottery is not as beneficial as it appears to be.

Every few years a new kitchen gadget arrives which rides a new wave of popularity.  From George Foreman grills to sandwich makers to Insta Pot pressure cookers . . . these devices work great, but often end up in a back corner of the kitchen cupboard because, well, they just don't meet all our expectations.  Sometimes kitchen gadgets are not as beneficial as they appear to be.

The youngest of twelve brothers tended to annoy his older siblings, exasperated by the fact he is clearly the favourite son.  In a rash moment of irrationality (having been irritated to the extreme), his brothers get rid of him.  Decades later when their lives are threatened by famine, this long-lost brother reappears and is able to save them.  He survived years of disappointment and neglect, but now was used by God to save many people.  In his own words Joseph said to his brothers, "What you meant for evil God intended for good" (Gen. 50:20).  Getting rid of the family pest was not what it appeared to be.

And then there is the teenage farm boy who seemed to be "blessed" with one harrowing, life-threatening event after another.  First it was a bear that attacked his animals.  The bear didn't survive.  Then a lion tried the same thing.  Same result.  Farm boy 2, wild animals 0.  In the next major threat to his life (and he would go one to have many more) he confronted a giant of a man who spoke blasphemy against this farm boy's God.  Relatively unarmed (but not unprepared), David confronted Goliath with courage and faith.  Farm boy 3, wild "animals" 0.  Evidently, being well-armed (as Goliath was) is not what it appeared to be.

David's greatest skill was not the sling-shot. Nor did he possess some kind of super-spirituality that granted him superior fire power.  His greatest ability - learned through the process of confronting lions and bears - was to view the Goliath crisis from a faith perspective, convinced that God was engaged and would be faithful to His Word.

Often, God's faithfulness is not what it appears to be (or what we expect it to be).  Where we want solutions, He wants transformation.  Where we want a shout from the heavens He wants to work quietly, gently and hidden from view.  Where we want relief  He says, "My grace is enough for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness."  (2 Cor. 12:9 NET)

How easy it is for us to relegate God into a role of happiness facilitator (like winning the lottery) or convenience provider (like the latest kitchen gadget).  How easy to recreate our perspective on life where God is a useful and beneficiary adjunct, but we remain firmly entrenched as the core of our lives.

As God works and accomplishes His purposes we must remember, things are seldom as they appear to be.  Asaph lamented "in vain I have kept my heart pure." (Psa. 73:13 NASB)   Then, in a moment of clarity, he realized how distorted his perspective was.  He found himself in the place of worship, surrounded by people offering their sacrifices to God, expressing their thankfulness to Him, confessing their sins against them.  And everything changed:
When my heart was grieved and my spirit embittered,
I was senseless and ignorant; I was a brute beast before you.
Yet I am always with you; you hold me by my right hand.
You guide me with your counsel, and afterward you will take me into glory.
Whom have I in heaven but you? And earth has nothing I desire besides you.
My flesh and my heart may fail,
but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever. 

(Psa. 73:21-26 NIV)

Asaph realized things are not as they appear.  God is greater than he could fathom, His heart filled with compassion and grace.  Reassured by God's loving care Asaph's spirit and courage is renewed.  Like Joseph, Asaph, and David, we must be intentional to build the faith-life skill of re-calibrating our perspective to understand God is present even when things don't appear that way.   Things are not always as they appear.  God's goodness to us is beyond what we can imagine!

Graham Bulmer
Lead Pastor
Graham and Sharon Bulmer bring many years of pastoral, teaching, leadership development and administrative experience to the Q50 Community Church plant. They served in Latin America as missionaries for almost 15 years, and have pastored here in Canada.