January 5, 2004

Happy Forever
"The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant 
places; surely I have a delightful inheritance" 
(Tehillim / Psalms 16:5).

Until my late teens, God didn't mean much to me. I 
grew up in a turbulent home, full of anger and 
discord. The instability I endured had a negative 
effect on me. Fear, anxiety, and depression filled my 
heart.

Then one day I met another Jewish teenager like 
myself. He was very excited about his recent discovery 
of Yeshua (Jesus) as the Messiah. When he began to 
share his discovery with me, I was not so excited. For 
much of my life I had not given much thought to God 
and spiritual things. Yet, as a Jew, I knew the 
Messiah had not yet come, and that Jesus had no 
relevancy whatsoever to me or my people.

As we talked that afternoon, there were certain things 
that I heard that did intrigue me. I had never read 
the many predictions regarding the Messiah in the 
Jewish Bible. Encountering passages such as Isaiah, 
chapter 53, did catch my attention. I had also never 
heard of the concept of the Messiah's provision of 
forgiveness. But there was one thing I was told that 
day that really caught my attention. I was told that 
if I would pray a certain prayer, asking God to 
forgive me for my sins and inviting the Messiah into 
my heart and life, I would be happy for the rest of my 
life and live forever. While I didn't care too much 
about eternity, I wanted to be happy.

I didn't think that anyone under any circumstances 
could be happy all the time, but what I heard that day 
made a lot of sense. And the way it was presented to 
me (or at least the way I understood it), I simply 
needed to say that prayer, and if it was real, then I 
would know happiness. If not, then life would just 
continue on as normal. I figured I had nothing to 
lose, so I did it.

And you know what? Everything changed. The anxiety and 
fear I had been struggling with disappeared for the 
first time in weeks just like that. I don't think I 
had ever been as happy and as excited about living as 
I was at that time. It would be about five months 
before I would encounter any significant emotional 
struggles. When that happened, I began to wonder what 
was going on. I had thought I was going to be happy 
for the rest of my life.

Thankfully, the day I said that prayer, there was more 
going on than the reciting of a magic formula. While I 
was most intrigued by the prospect of being happy, the 
objective truth of what I saw in the Scriptures had 
greatly impacted me. As I began to accept that I would 
still face all kinds of pain and difficulties, I also 
began to experience greater and greater depths of 
God's reality.

Since then I have been slow to recognize the love and 
presence of God in the midst of disappointment and 
hardship. Although God has been very good to me, I 
have tended to focus more on my difficulties than on 
the good that God was doing in the midst of those 
difficulties.

A dramatic example of this occurred only a couple of 
weeks ago. My family and I were travelling to visit 
relatives. The drive had been pleasant with good road 
conditions and light traffic. After driving for about 
two hours, we were almost at our destination. All of 
sudden everything changed. Light snow was falling, it 
was getting dark, and many more cars were on the road. 
We were in a location where an entrance to the freeway 
led almost immediately to an exit. Another car had 
entered the freeway and began to move into our lane. 
It then began to get back into the exit lane, 
hesitated and then moved halfway into our lane and 
stopped.

I then tried to stop, but realized that there was no 
way I would not hit that car. Since it was taking up 
half my lane, I thought that I could move over enough 
to avoid the collision, but not get hit by the 
vehicles in the next lane. I swerved and missed 
hitting that car by about an inch, while another 
vehicle to my left sped by me. Everyone was alright.

I was haunted by that scene for two weeks as I thought 
about how I could have been partly responsible for a 
multi-vehicle collision. We were, of course, so 
thankful that no harm was done. Yet still it bothered 
me. While I believed that God protected us, why did he 
let the almost collision happen?

It was not until very recently that I realized how 
caught up I was in the "what if" of that situation, 
instead of the "what happened." Certainly it was a 
near mishap. It was frightening, but in reality, we 
were kept safe. My focus on the near mishap kept me 
from celebrating God's protection. I realize now, how 
happy I should have been over the incident, instead of 
being as upset as I was.

Part of the problem with the concept of being happy 
forever has to do with our understanding of happiness. 
Being happy is not about the absence of problems. It 
is more to do with a general perspective on life. It 
is a deep knowing that life is good in spite of daily 
circumstances. This is something that I am still 
learning. It is a process that began that wonderful 
day many years ago, when I first prayed that prayer.