Have you ever had a rough day? I mean, the type of day where the sky is crashing down and your pet’s heads are falling off kind of day? Have you had one of those days and then run into what I call the “happy Christian?" The happy Christian is the person who seems to have never had a bad day and is really uncomfortable talking about your bad day. They spend the entire conversation never really actually listening to you, but instead trying to bring you up to their level of happiness.
Bad days are inevitable. They just happen. Sometimes there are even bad seasons. Life is hard. But even on a bad day, the Lord is no less good on my good days than he is on my bad days.
Sometimes there are long seasons of personal suffering and sometimes we are in the thick of other people’s suffering. When seeking to endure with others in their suffering we can tend to try and fix people, fix their circumstances, fix their attitudes, even when we are trying to genuinely help them. The truth is, we have all been that “happy Christian” at some point whether we intended to or not.
The “happy Christian” means well but often only shares or responds out of their current perspective of God. The truth is, how someone views the Lord is evident by how he or she responds to another person in suffering or pain, or really, someone just having a bad day. However, when the “happy Christian” wants to force the goodness and faithfulness of the Lord upon a hurting circumstance, they are not doing God justice by providing the comfort that he truly offers those in pain. We know the Lord is good and faithful because we experience him to be, but also because Scripture tell us. However, the Lord isn’t only good and faithful; he is so much more than those two attributes.
We need to remember that not only is the Lord more than those two attributes, but that he is all of his attributes at the same time. He is a God full of wrath while also being a God full of grace. He is a God who is staunchly just while also perfectly kind. Reality check: God is vast and so much bigger than us. He is not like us. He is astonishingly able to actively be all of his attributes at once. But we often forget this when we are ministering to one another. Thus, the “happy Christian” can often miss opportunities to listen and minister to those around them in the complex way that Jesus would.
The truth is . . . salvation and relationship with the Lord is not contingent on how happy you are. The possession of happiness is not necessarily evidence of godliness. Some people are made with cheerful dispositions, and we can praise God for these people. But cheerfulness is not a fruit of the Spirit. Rather, true joy is deeply rooted in relationship with the Lord and given to us as a fruit of the Spirit. The success of your faith has nothing to do with you being happy. It has everything to do with Jesus.
How then do we recover from acting as a “happy Christian”?
First, we listen to each other. Listen closely and don’t interrupt. Remember there will be hard days. Listen and be slow to speak and when you speak, speak with wisdom. “To answer before listening—that is folly and shame” (Proverbs 18:13).
Secondly, because you’ve listened, it’s likely that you will be able to share evidences of God’s grace working in that person’s life. But remember, you may also not be able to see any yet, and that is okay, too. Sometimes we can't see God's goodness in a situation not because he isn't good, but because we can’t possibly know everything he is doing. So we seek to trust Him in the midst of the unknown. “Trust the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding” (Proverbs 3:5).
Third, seek to mutually learn from sufferers rather than only seeking to teach or correct them. When you ask questions of someone having a bad day, ask questions in response to what they have shared. Not just questions that insist on getting to the agenda you have for teaching that person. If a person has shared about a very hard emotional season full of suffering don’t first ask them, “Where have you seen the Lord’s goodness?” That can come across as a passive rebuke. The Lord is likely teaching that person something else besides just His goodness. Remember, God is a big God with many attributes. Try asking that person what they have been learning about God or, learning about others or themself? Or, you could even ask what truth about God they have found or sought comfort in during such a hard time. “By Wisdom a house is built, and through understanding it is established; through knowledge its rooms are filled with rare and beautiful treasures” (Proverbs 24:3-4).
Lastly, remember that just because a person has a bad day doesn’t mean that person does not trust God or that they do not believe God is good and faithful. Acknowledging that a person has had a bad day doesn’t mean you are endorsing them as a victim; it means that you are compassionate and loving towards a fellow sinning sufferer. Don’t comfort simply out of personal happiness. Instead, comfort out of the depths of a vast God. It is only “the God of hope [who will] fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope” (Romans 15:13). Borrowed happiness will never bring true joy, only the God of hope can do that.
Amanda Edmondson is on staff at Sojourn Community Church is Louisville, Ky where she serves as the Director of Women's Ministry and the Executive Assistant to Daniel Montgomery. You can follow her @amandaedmondson.