My daughter, recently asked me the above, very common, question. It led to a family discussion which lasted over several days. I love when we have such discussions. It causes the family to grapple with important topics which are sometimes not so easy to resolve or comprehend. This is especially true for my daughter, who is my youngest at 11 years old, whose mind is still developing and maturing. The rest of the family had a pretty good understanding as to how to deal with this question. But, even after several conversations, it was still not quite clicking for her. Fortunately, I came across something that Dr. James White had explained during the June 4th, 2015 podcast of The Dividing Line, entitled, “Thoughts on the Dr. Drew Show.”
Dr. White was a recent guest on the Dr. Drew Show, June 2, 2015. He was asked to be on the show in order to provide the “spiritual” perspective regarding the now, very popular topic of self-proclaimed, gender identification. In critiquing the panel’s worldview from the Dr. Drew show, Dr. White on The Dividing Line podcast clarified a distinction that we Christians can sometimes miss, or poorly describe. His clarification helped me greatly in helping my daughter to connect the dots and to finally gain an answer to her question. Dr. White explained the difference between being happy and joy:
“Happiness is a fleeting state of mind. Joy is something that one can have in horrific circumstances. If you have ever read The Hiding Place, you know exactly what we are talking about: That there could be people who can experience joy in Dacau and Auschwitz, because they had character, because they had honor, and duty, and dignity… because they recognized that mankind was something more than an animal. What we listened to from those panelists, is not only a level of immaturity, it is absolutely shocking… it is ethical nihilism. It is empty. It has nothing to offer. And, it cannot long survive. No culture, that becomes “that” has any framework upon which to be able to respond to any kind of meaningful pressure. What is going to happen to a culture, that has “that” as its moral and ethical fiber, when an American city disappears under a mushroom cloud from a terrorist attack? What’s going to happen then? Collapse… absolute collapse. That’s what we are looking at, and clearly… they don’t care. They’re getting their pay. They’ve got their BMW. They’ve got their fancy clothes. They don’t care, because, they are autonomous. And, as long as they are happy, things are good. Now… they all of a sudden find themselves in a nuclear winter, and they’ll be blaming everybody. But, the only person they will be able to blame is themselves. But… they don’t want to be bothered with that kind of thinking. They don’t want people to be challenged. It makes people uncomfortable.
‘It takes my happiness away. And, that won’t make me happy. So, I just need to be happy.’
The immaturity of our society: Just… absolutely… shocking. Absolutely, shocking.”
(In order to get the full context of what Dr. James White was referring to, I recommend that you listen to the podcast. What I am focusing on is the distinction that he made between being happy and joy.)
After listening to this portion of the podcast, I then suddenly realized that Dr. White had provided me with the means of helping my daughter understand the answer to her question. Below is the actual texting conversation that she and I had after I had listened to the podcast:
Me: I have a question to ask you regarding the topic you have been bringing up. Here it is:
Would you consider it to be odd if God answered every prayer that we wanted, the way that we wanted it to be answered?
Her: That would be odd
Me: Can you think of any problems that would result from God answering all of our prayers the way each of us would want them answered?
Her: Not really
Her: Wait nvm
Her: I don’t get it
Me: Okay, how come you said that it would be odd?
Her: Well not always answering can like teach people
Me: Teach people what?
Her: We will have to talk when ur home
Me: Here’s a tiny example of two Christians wanting something, where it is impossible for both to be happy:
Suppose that two Christians are at a baseball game. Both are rooting for the opposing team, and both want their team to win. Someone is going to be disappointed. How could God possibly keep both happy?
Her: Make the game tie
Me: Really? Is your brother ever happy with a tie?
[My oldest is a travel baseball player.]
Her: Not really
Me: So does making the game a tie work?
Me: So then, how does God then make both people happy?
Her: He can’t
Me: Correct. Now, keep that in the back of your mind for a moment. What do both of the Christians in this example have, which allows them to be ok with possibly not being happy?
Her: To know that gods in control
Me: Yes, but what do each of the Christians have which makes them ok with not being happy?
Her: That they are going to live forever with God
Me: Excellent. Very good. In the Bible, the word which describes the good feeling which accompanies the assurance and confidence that Christians have is, as you said above, “That they are going to live forever with God,” is called JOY. “Joy” is the thing that Christians have, even when they are not happy. Joy (in the Lord) is what has caused even those Christians who were burned to death just because they were Christians, in past history, to sing hymns as they burned to death. It’s quite remarkable, and I even have trouble understanding how that’s even possible, but that’s what has happened. So, because of “joy” (confidence in Christ) Christians can suffer in really bad situations, yet still be perfectly ok with it. Because of “joy,” the bad things that God might allow Christians to experience, is not really an issue for Christians. The question is now for you to answer: Do you have such joy?
Me: How do you know?
Her: I repented from my sins and trusted in the lord
Me: God allows or causes what He wills because, as you also said above, He is “in control,” and whatever He causes or allows is for His glory. So, does that answer your question? (If it doesn’t, that’s ok, we can keep talking.)
Her: That answers it
Me: Cool. I love you!
Her: I love you too moo🐮
(My daughter comes up with cute nicknames for me. LOL)
1 Peter 1:3-9
“Praise the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. According to His great mercy, He has given us a new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead and into an inheritance that is imperishable, uncorrupted, and unfading, kept in heaven for you. You are being protected by God’s power through faith for a salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time. You rejoice in this, though now for a short time you have had to struggle in various trials so that the genuineness of your faith — more valuable than gold, which perishes though refined by fire — may result in praise, glory, and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. You love Him, though you have not seen Him. And though not seeing Him now, you believe in Him and rejoice with inexpressible and glorious joy, because you are receiving the goal of your faith, the salvation of your souls.”
Godspeed, to the brethren!
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