That His Bride Be Happy
Is happiness a realistic goal in the church? After all, Jesus warned His disciples their decision to follow Him would lead to trouble, sometimes at the hands of religious leaders. “They will put you out of the synagogue; in fact, a time is coming when anyone who kills you will think he is offering a service to God. They will do such things because they have not known the Father or me” (John 16:1-3). With the cross in view Jesus’ disciples must have been painfully perplexed when He said, “you will weep and mourn while the world rejoices” (John 16:20).
Years later, the Apostle Paul recounted his frequent floggings and imprisonments, and his close encounters with death “again and again” (1 Corinthians 11:23). Tradition tells us Paul was eventually beheaded in Rome, joining with at least ten of Jesus’ original disciples in paying the ultimate price for his faith. In light of these sufferings, and so many saints who have been persecuted and killed throughout the centuries, can we really say God wants His church to be happy?
Yes. Circumstances change, but the joy experienced by Christ’s Bride is difficult to extinguish. It is true Jesus told His disciples they would “weep and mourn”, but He also said, “your grief will turn to joy” (John 16:20). Paul endured years of hard ministry, but was still able to write, “Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all” (2 Corinthians 4:16-17). Amazing!
It is important to realize, the joy we find in Christ is more than a consolation prize we cling to in difficult times. The church is truly a happy place. I am aware church families sometimes go through seasons of great upheaval that can hardly be characterized as “happy.” But remember, we are talking about the Father’s toast, not ours. God’s wants His church to be happy, even in times of persecution, and His vision is realistic if we keep our eyes focused on the source of our joy.