Chasing Happily Ever After
I recently watched a PBS documentary on Walt Disney. If you are American, more than likely you have seen at least one of the Disney films. The main premise for most of his full length films is someone/something attacks the underdog, but in the end, the underdog always wins and will live “happily ever after.” In theory, this a beautiful and creative concept. It is so pervasive in our society that oftentimes we think our lives, the Bible, and the will of God should, and will, play out like a Disney movie. However, this could not be further from the truth.
In my war on cancer, I erroneously calculated an eventual “happily ever after” moment. I picked an arbitrary time in the near future that I would no longer get sick, no longer have to see a doctor, and no longer have to face new trials. No more fights. No more uphill battles. Frankly, I felt like I had earned it and thought “I’ve had enough trials to last a lifetime. I think it’s time for me to coast a little. Only good things will happen from this point forward.” And wonderful things did happen, but the challenges did not stop. As an example, in September, I was blessed to celebrate another birthday and Duane and I celebrated our one year anniversary with a wonderful trip to France. Yet, right before our trip, I got shingles. I was cleared in December to work again, yet after months of networking, interviewing, praying, submitting resumes, I was met with countless shut doors. Happiness and joy were countered with frustration and weariness. I talk to many young adults who are struggling with what I call “the new mid-life crisis.” They have worked hard, went to school, strived and worked towards goals. Yet, when they look up, they are not in the space they thought they would be – whether it is in their career, relationship, location, or financial situation. This is not how the story was supposed to be at this point in my life.
The delusion of “happily ever after” fools us into thinking that after we commit our lives to Christ, are victorious, or experience miracles, that we can lives our life in cruise control. God never said that once we are free or delivered that we will not have to fight anymore. He does not promise us that once we accept Him into our lives we will no longer have trouble. Pastor Brian Taylor of Bethel Cincinnati once told me, “We will never reach a point in our life span where we no longer need to exercise our faith.” There is no cruise control button in the ride on the highway of faith. There will always be a time when you will need to accelerate your faith even higher to get around the next ridge or bend in the road. You may have to take your faith out of neutral and shift into overdrive just to get through a long stretch in a desert valley.
I am always intrigued by the story in Matthew 14:24-33 where Peter steps out of the boat and walks on water towards Jesus. Peter activates his faith, steps out of the boat and begins to walk. Yet, in the very next verse, he takes his eyes off Jesus and starts to sink. What changed from this mountaintop, faith experience to the very next verse being an apparently low faith experience? He took his eyes off of Jesus. Essentially, there will never come a point in our life where we will not need to lean, rely and depend on God, no matter how many victories we win, no matter how many miracles we experience, no matter how many things we achieve.
If you read my blog, you know I love Job. Job experiences one of the roughest trials written in the Old Testament. This story does not end with “and he lived happily ever after.” What it does say is that “God blessed the latter part of Job’s life more than the first.” [Job 42:12] What does that tell us? Even though we are not promised a trial-free life, we are guaranteed that if we hold on to God, our latter days will be greater than our former days. That if we stay in the fire, we will come out as pure gold. [Job 23:10] That our trials allow us to know God in a more intimate way. [Job 42:5] I believe God is more concerned with our character and spiritual development than He is with our happiness. Instead of chasing a happy ending and trying to rush through the process, chase after God and seek out what He is trying to reveal. God’s divine will and purpose for our lives is directly tied to our relationship with Him. There is purpose in the process that will produce destiny. And destiny is far greater than “happily ever after”.