This is a wonderful, wonderful post from Amy Hall, who writes for the Stand to Reason blog.
I had a brief interaction with an atheist on Twitter a couple of weeks ago that unexpectedly turned to the issue of suffering when she said:
You clearly never had a time you were hurt. I don’t mean sick. I don’t mean heart broken. I mean literally a near death experience or rape or abusive relationship…. You can keep floating on a [expletive] cloud thinking Jesus will do everything for you but it’s a lie. What makes you so special?
That surprised me at first because it didn’t seem to have anything to do with the tweet she was responding to, and I was confused as to why she would assume I’d never been through anything traumatic. But then in subsequent tweets, when she revealed she had been raped, it became clear that her trauma had played a central role in her becoming an outspoken, obviously angry “antitheist.” She’s a self-described antitheist now because she thinks Christianity teaches Jesus “will do everything for you” to give you a perfect life, and now she knows that’s a lie. The rape proved her understanding of Christianity false.
So it made sense for her to reason that since I believe Christianity is true, I must still be under the delusion that Jesus is making my life special, which means I obviously never encountered any evil or suffering to shake that delusion.
All right, readers. I don’t want any of you to be thinking that if you become a Christian that these things should be expected to happen:
- you will feel happy all the time
- you will be able to sense God’s secret plan for your life through your feelings
- God’s secret plan for your life will automatically work, even though it’s crazy
- God will give you a perfect spouse and lots of money without you having to study anything hard, or do any hard work
- you get permission to do things that that make you happy, even if they are expressly forbidden by the Bible
- you don’t have to do anything that makes you feel bad (e.g. – talk to non-Christians about Christian truth claims), because God wants you to be happy
No! Where do people get this idea that if they convert to Christianity, then God will become their cosmic butler?
Amy has the answer: (emphasis mine)
Hear me, everyone: This is a failure of the church.
A friend of mine who was deeply suffering once said to me that many Christians are in for “an epic letdown” when they realize their preconceived notions about what God is expected to do for us are false. Pastors who preach a life-improvement Jesus are leading people down this precarious path to disillusionment.
If suffering disproves your Christianity, you’ve missed Christianity. The Bible is filled with the suffering of those whom God loves. The central event of the Bible is one of suffering. Love involves suffering. “We know love by this, that He laid down His life for us; and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren.” That means suffering.
It’s the church. It’s the focus on happy things and having of happy feelings and happy songs and preaching designed to make us feel good. I would say the comforting devotional reading doesn’t help to make us any tougher or more practical, either. That happy-clappy stuff just gives you a false sense of safety about your precarious situation. God’s job is not to prevent you from suffering. In fact, even if you make really smart, practical decisions, you can expect to get creamed anyway.
Please take 15 minutes and read the book of 1 Peter in the New Testament.
Here’s a summary from GotQuestions.org:
Purpose of Writing: 1 Peter is a letter from Peter to the believers who had been dispersed throughout the ancient world and were under intense persecution. If anyone understood persecution, it was Peter. He was beaten, threatened, punished and jailed for preaching the Word of God. He knew what it took to endure without bitterness, without losing hope and in great faith living an obedient, victorious life. This knowledge of living hope in Jesus was the message and Christ’s example was the one to follow.
Brief Summary: Though this time of persecution was desperate, Peter reveals that it was actually a time to rejoice. He says to count it a privilege to suffer for the sake of Christ, as their Savior suffered for them. This letter makes reference to Peter’s personal experiences with Jesus and his sermons from the book of Acts. Peter confirms Satan as the great enemy of every Christian but the assurance of Christ’s future return gives the incentive of hope.
Practical Application: The assurance of eternal life is given to all Christians. One way to identify with Christ is to share in His suffering. To us that would be to endure insults and slurs from those who call us “goodie two shoes” or “holier than thou.” This is so minor compared to what Christ suffered for us on the Cross. Stand up for what you know and believe is right and rejoice when the world and Satan aim to hurt you.
Recently, I blogged about how suffering is compatible with an all-powerful God, so you might want to read that too if you missed it.
4 thoughts on “If you accept Jesus and become a Christian, will God make you happy?”
I don’t want to pin this wholly on the church.
The atheist is possibly being dishonest, does she think that there are no religious Christians who have been raped, crippled, almost died, or otherwise truly traumatized?
She knows that’s false, or perhaps should know, or hasn’t thought about it.
Now will Christ make your life better than it would have been normally? How could He not? But better on a different scale and in different ways, and it may involve tremendous suffering. Better according to God’s infinite knowledge and wisdom.
I think we maybe want to be tough guys and oversell too far on the other side from health and wealth. I know for a fact God has provided for me in tremendous ways. If you’re a Christian, in some ways, normatively, you should be experiencing greater peace, a clearer conscience, experience God’s leading. Maybe not as much as you’d like but something and again normatively, Christians can go through different things depending on God’s work in their lives. Just because health and wealth types emphasize one thing we’re not balancing it out by emphasize the hard part exclusively.
Ideally we present the balanced, or perhaps better put, the complete enough and correct view.
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If more people were Christian and actively following and living out their faith, there would be less harm in the world and the totality of happiness would increase.
Less would be injured and sick due to abuse of dangerous drugs and people would not steal from others and want to help their neighbour.
I see the issue is also rooted in we all have a selfish personal view and don’t want to look at how things impact others. We see our own personal pain as the worst pain ever.
If they are in a calm state I will ask and how do you propose God stop a bad person should he intervene through miraculous means each time. Because remember God also opposed the proud. He is against even looking at another person’s spouse or object they have with desire to take it as our own.
If God is to stop one thing he should move in the other. But he choses to work through flawed people right now and to allow them to do his work. Leaving his vengeance on the wicked for a later appointed time.
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literally a near death experience or rape or abusive relationship> Yes to all three and much more, and have the scars to prove it. Am I at peace, even joyful? I accepted the Lord’s promise of peace, love, and joy long ago. I am happy and pray for those who abused me. That’s ow you forgive, by asking God to put His spirit of forgiveness in you and pray for those who sin against you. Rape is a horrible, disgusting act perpetrated by the mentally handicapped. Of the two sexes, suicide after rape if 35% for women, but 50% for men. These stats come from the US military. But, according to psychologists, even gay raping gay results in suicide. It might be quick, ot the slow road of alcoholism and drugs, but it’s common. peace to you