I wonder, who are the happiest Christians in the world? Of course, it behooves me to define happiness for the sake of precision. But I guess I will let the general drift of my writing do that heavy lifting for me. In other words, let's see whether the definition will come into sharper focus when I am at the tail end of this post.
Now, who are the happiest Christians in this world then? I can actually think of two categories. The first category is the perpetually happy for anything that has to do with their faith (and I will reveal the second category as I move along). You can't miss this first group. They may very well form a large number of Christians you know. They are everywhere or seem to be everywhere in the Church. They are in fact perfect candidates to join the church's welcoming committee or bandwagon.
They are always in their Sunday best, well-attired, springy and smiling. And as difficult as it is to wipe the blood off the Cross of Calvary, you cannot wipe the smiles off their faces either. No way Hosea. They are quite a tough nut to crack on this one (pun unintended). Come rain or shine, they are always consistent in form and substance.
Now it is easy for people like me to be skeptical, even morosely so, about the genuineness of their disposition, but I have personally encountered such people within my own family circle. My mother-in-law and my sister are in this first category. They are always chirpy, faithful and positive. They are like the rock on the shore of time. Be it high tides or low, bubbling foams or still waters, my mother-in-law and sister stay the course, or in this case, they remain steadfast by the shore. They therefore can be counted upon.
And if true be told, I sometimes question their Pleasantville-like countenance and authenticity. I mean, these are the same people who would throw you scriptures the way the police squad would hose down an angry mob. Their apparent one-size-fits-all verses sometimes feel like the mythical Procrustes’ bed whereby your legs and hands are chopped away so as to fit into the rosy idea of their theology. Underscore "apparent".
But I guess I have thought amiss. I have mixed them up with another group of “happy” Christians. This category is really beyond my comprehension. They are the phenomenonally happy. Of course, they do not fall into my second category I am going to write about but it is worth some post-space here to talk about them.
You can find this peculiar group bursting at the spiritual loins with gladness, thankfulness, cheerfulness, joyfulness, mirthfulness and happiness. Well, I am not here to judge whether they are truly or genuinely happy but they seem to be. And to some churchgoers, their joy is infectious and it really shows most conspicuously. You will find them "liking" every post about the faith – even their own comments - in Facebook. They are relentless when it comes to starting each sentence with "Praise God!" and ending it with "Hallelujah!" And in church, they are the happiest (usually over and above the blood-stained cause at Calvary).
If you allow them the liberty to write the reasons for their happiness, they can fill volumes after volumes about love, joy, peace, fortress, refuge, eternity, heaven, second coming, rapture, praise, and the like. The list is amazingly endless. Nothing can in fact ruffle their spiritual feathers. They will never let the sun go down on their anger. Neither will the sun rise with it. In fact, they never seemed to be angry, not at all. They are always soaring on wings like eagles and they are emotionally immune to issues of sufferings, pain and flaws. They generally treat doubts with toxic gloves and would stare at you point-blank if you should innocently pose them a question that is theodicy related.
They are totally adverse to processing the jarring cognitive dissonance of a loving and all-powerful God and the prevalence of gratuitous suffering in this world. They wouldn't even have you talk about it - not a smidgen of it. It's like the number 13, it's bad luck or bad faith. They are just blissfully happy regardless and sometimes I marvel at them. At other times, I find them amusing. Most times, I am just ambivalently undecided.
You just have to hand it to them for being so preternaturally happy without there being anything more than just the mere fact that they are believers and they belong exclusively to a cozy church of believers. And it pays to mention that this particular group has a biblical answer to every trial you may face. On this point, I am quite sure I have not thought them amiss. In fact, unless you are as like-minded as them, you may find their overweening joy a tad too much (or suffocating) for you. Other than that, you may just find yourself in the most intoxicating of companies.
So, I would not put my mother-in-law and sister in this somewhat preternaturally happy category. Maybe that's my bias. But personally I trust that my mother-in-law and my sister share the same traits as the second category of happy Christians I have in mind here. This group of Christians are no doubt happy but their happiness is tempered. It is tempered by the trials of life. It is tempered by mature faith. It is tempered by the scourge of an unforgiving world and the savagery of human failings. For this reason, they are both practical and incredibly resilient. They don't mollycoddle your faith with helium-like, quick-fix and one-size-fits-all pick-me-up lines from the scriptures. In other words, they listen to counsel and not counsel and expect you to listen - no questions ask.
They will not hesitate to tell you that they have no answer, at least no answers from the Bible. They are like Job's friends who sat with him for seven days and seven nights without uttering a word because they believe in the ministry of just being present. They therefore do not see silent company as fruitless company. The thing about this group is that you can trust their views because they do not take the easy road with the faith. Most of them have been there and done that and they will keep no secrets about their own disappointments and flaws (even disillusionments) about the faith. They are as real as real gets, even rawer sometimes.
And yet, they are happy, positive and hopeful. They smile at the storm and fall forward when down. They don't see doubt as a millstone to be blindly cast away but as stepping stones to deeper understanding of the faith. They would rejoice with you and weep with you. They would celebrate in victory and persevere in suffering. And in good times or bad, like Paul, they will proclaim the one golden thread that runs through all times and that is, the joy of the Lord is my strength and the strength of my faith is my Rock.
So, these are the two categories of Christian happiness I have in mind. And my mother-in-law and sister somehow share some traits, if not most, from both. In fact, maybe I need to do a definitional tweaking here to lend clarity to it. Maybe there are still two groups of happy Christians in this world and the similarities between the first group and the second can be merged or converged as one, that is, putting my mother-in-law and sister in both categories. And the other group is the one I have described above in passing, that is, the unmistakable category where its practitioners are just preternaturally happy, even for the strangest of reasons. Cheerz.