By John Hanson
A friend mine told me about the day he walked into his local bank and cheerfully greeted the tellers. After they responded in kind, one of them commented, “Whenever you come in here the whole room lights up. How is it that you are always so happy?” Truth be told, my friend had not always been a happy person. In fact, at one time his life was very troubled and his lifestyle had almost killed him. So, what changed? Why was he so happy?
I am certain that, if asked, he would say it was all God’s fault. You see, my friend’s life had taken him to such desperate places that, although he did not consider himself to be religious, he began praying to for God for help. God used a co-worker to lead him to a group of people who were able to help him experience the same thing experienced by the Jewish song writer who put it this way:
“Oh, what joy for those whose disobedience is forgiven, whose sin is put out of sight! Yes, what joy for those whose record the LORD has cleared of guilt, whose lives are lived in complete honesty! When I refused to confess my sin, my body wasted away, and I groaned all day long. Day and night your hand of discipline was heavy on me. My strength evaporated like water in the summer heat. Finally, I confessed all my sins to you and stopped trying to hide my guilt. I said to myself, ‘I will confess my rebellion to the LORD.’ And you forgave me! All my guilt is gone.” (Psalms 32:1-5 NLT)
Real joy does not come from education, riches or achievement. This is easily illustrated by noting the high rate of divorce, addiction and suicide in the lives of the rich and the famous. Real joy comes from having a deep sense of peace and wholeness. Real joy comes from knowing that our hearts are right with our Maker. But most of us would admit we are imperfect; we have offended God and people. All of us know we have done things we should not have done. Only God can relieve us of these weights. If we find true, lasting peace it will be God’s fault.
Ironically, we sometimes run from the very thing we desire. Sometimes we sabotage a life of joy because we refuse to leave our comfort zone. This was the case for an entire town that Jesus visited. Upon his arrival he encountered a man who was so violent and troubled that he lived naked in the caves of the cemetery. When Jesus delivered this man, his neighbors found him clothed and in his right mind. However, the demons that had troubled this man had been ordered into a herd of swine, who promptly committed suicide. The townspeople were so troubled by the death of the pigs that they overlooked the miracle of the changed life; “the crowd began pleading with Jesus to go away and leave them alone.” (Mark 5:17 NLT) Isn’t it strange how we often run from the things that will help us the most?
God has provided a path to peace and joy. He invites everyone to simply come to Him, confess their sins, and ask forgiveness. He invites everyone to be baptized in His name in order to have their sins washed away. And He has promised His Spirit to those who seek Him. Those who have received the Holy Spirit will agree that it is “joy unspeakable and full of glory.” That joy is a gift from God – it’s all His fault.