Thursday, September 15, 2011

Happiness or Holiness?

I'm just so doggone HAPPY! 
Yesterday--you may have heard about it--the Rev. Pat Robertson said that it's okay for a Christian to divorce his/her partner with Alzheimer's and remarry.

I'm not writing to rail against Pat Robertson, and he certainly doesn't speak for all believers in Christ.  But his statement started me thinking about the marriage covenant (a fancy word for contract), and then a friend on an email loop asked, "Who says marriage isn't about making us happy, but making us holy?"

Whoa.   In my ponderings, I realized that nowhere does Scripture tell us to try to be happy.  We are told to be like Christ, to be faithful, to be holy, and to be mature.  But nowhere did Jesus say, "Go out and do something that makes you happy."

This invitation to holiness is found in all contracts, whether written or verbal or implicit.  I entered into an implicit agreement to parent my children, and I can tell you that I've experienced long periods of parenthood where I received very little happiness and loads of invitations to holiness (and I'm sure my parents could say the same thing!).  Marriage is not a bed of roses all the time, and what job doesn't have its aggravations?

As to being an employee: with each struggle in employment (or unemployment), I've had a choice to be unhappy or to exercise some aspect of holiness--patience, grace, sacrifice, kindness, generosity.   In marriage, in family relationships, in business relationships, and even in the neighborhood--whenever I'm tempted to be unhappy, I could instead exercise one of the virtues of holiness.

And you know what?  When I deliberately choose to exercise an aspect of holiness--which is what God commands me to do in the first place--I find something better than happiness.  Jesus said that he came so that our joy would be full.  And joy is much deeper and much more permanent that light and frothy "happiness."

I know that many loving spouses have cared for and remained faithful to their spouses with Alzheimer's and other debilitating diseases . . . choosing to exercise the virtues of holiness rather than seeking their own happiness.  And when they choose that path, they bring glory to God.

We all face the same challenge--and not one of us makes the right choice 100 percent of the time.  But we tend to forget we HAVE that choice, so here's a little reminder . . . to you and to me.

So when the Bozos of your life drive you crazy, remember: by the sovereign will of God, that Bozo is in your life to help make you holy.  :-)  Thank God for your precious little crazy-maker.

~~Angie

11 comments:

MaryAnn Diorio, PhD said...

Dear Angela,

Thank you for your post. You are right on! A while ago, our Lord said to me, "My goal for My children is not their happiness. It is their holiness." The amazing thing is that when we live a holy life, it will fill us with joy which is so far deeper than happiness. Happiness depends on circumstances; joy does not.

Thank you for your boldness in proclaiming this truth.

Blessings,

MaryAnn

Lilly Grace Brown said...

I just read Robertson's comment this morning and felt sad. What about mental illness then too? If a husband is bipolar does one divorce? Or what if he had a car accident and ended up with a severe brain injury, never able to provide or interact like he used to? Does one abandon them then? If that happened to our children would we give them up for adoption? No! This time on earth is a blip in eternity -and regardless of the trial or duration we are called to seek Christ in the midst of it and persevere and use those circumstances to grow us more and more in the image of our Lord.

prov3130grl said...

Thank you for this! I hadn't heard his comment, but it kind of breaks my heart. My grandmother died from Alzheimer's 2 years ago and I can't even imagine how upset my mom and the rest of the family would have been had my grandfather divorced her. It would have made a hard situation harder. Not to mention the fact that I believe it is just plain wrong. When we take our vows, it says "til death do us part... and in sickness and in health." That's a commitment. ~ Andi

Anna Carrasco Bowling said...

Pat Robertson's comment filled me with sadness as well. I would not trade one moment of caring for my dad, who had Alzheimer's, because that experience brought true holiness with it, the chance to let myself decrease that the Christ in me could increase. Yes, it was difficult, but it was also right, and God was *there.*

Lesley said...

It is so sad to hear comments like this, and must be so discouraging for the caregivers of Dementia patients. Having recently lost my mom to Lewy Bodies Dementia and now caring for my dad with Alzheimer's, I know how hard it is and how many times I wish everything was "normal". So many times the caregivers are not considered by those looking on and this kind of comment is something that could cause a spiritually and/or physically drained person to abandon someone so precious in their lives. These situations bring holiness to us because Christ is the only one that is there all the time, the only one that cares all the time, and the only one that gives us the strength to keep going when we feel like quitting. I would not trade one minute I spent caring for my mom or my dad...those precious memories will stay with me forever.

Kathy C. said...

Wow. Wonder where he sees that in the Bible? Or, in sick and health except for the following exceptions....

Jenny said...

From USA TODAY: "Robertson was asked what advice a man should give to a friend who began seeing another woman after his wife started suffering from the incurable neurological disorder."

What saddens me is that in the question, it mentions involvement with a person other than the spouse. That should have been a trigger to the answer he gave...get uninvolved! The man is still married.

I hope the friend is able to get some sound Biblical counsel on the situation from another source.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for your excellent analysis and wise counsel, Angie. I cannot imagine a man of God proclaiming such nonsense. And yet, there are those who will rejoice in his having said it. I firmly believe that our happiness comes from having chosen to take the holy path. When I stray from that, I pay for it. Clyde

Caitriona aka Catherine said...

The rose bed certainly has thorns. My husband and I have had our tough times. He and I read Gary Thomas' Book, Sacred Marriage with the sub title being, "What if God designed marriage to make us holy more than to make us happy?" That kind of language is counter cultural. As Christians we are called to keep on vows by the GRACE of God and depend on Him in order to do so.
Thanks for your continued encouragement Angie to choose the Higher (Narrow) Road.

Stefanie said...

Great post! I liked this -
I realized that nowhere does Scripture tell us to try to be happy. We are told to be like Christ, to be faithful, to be holy, and to be mature. But nowhere did Jesus say, "Go out and do something that makes you happy."
Thanks!
Stefanie

Ginny Jaques said...

Thanks for the great reminder, Angela. I need to "embed" this message in my spirit.