A.W. Tozer wrote a book titled Of God and Men that was published in 1960. It is a series of short essays arranged as chapters. One of the essays is titled “Holiness before Happiness.” Tozer has some interesting things to say (you can see a PDF of the chapter here). The main points of his argument are that humans wrongly see happiness as a right, Believers often place more value on happiness than holiness, and “God is more concerned with the state of people’s hearts than with the state of their feelings.”
I’ve been thinking about this.
I agree with Tozer, but I have questions about how I should act accordingly. My questions center around the role of happiness and sadness in the life of the Believer and how they should be portrayed. This leads to questions of honesty.
In the interest of moving from a theoretical discussion to an actual situation I will use myself as an example. As the first half of 2012 draws to a close, I realize I have never had a year in which my beliefs and feelings were more disparate. I am very aware of the embarrassment of riches in my life. I have been so blessed. And yet a sadness has permeated me. I would state it like this: “It is well with my soul, but my heart hurts like hell.”
I don’t write this to elicit pity; I’m more interested in analyzing the situation. How valuable it is to be honest about sadness?
Someone I respect and admire recently mentioned he was sad. I was shocked at how much this affected me. I’m not happy he is sad, but I find encouragement that my experience is not unique. His moment of candor was refreshing. Many times in life we preserve the public illusion that all is well. We put on a plastic smile. We are above struggling. We do this out of fear of vulnerability and in the name of social grace.
And this is what I find myself wondering about.
We live in a fallen world. Pain and sadness are inevitable. How should a Believer respond?
I have many more questions and comments, but I’ll reserve those for conversations.