Yesterday, I brushed past a Q & A with Ravi Zacharias on my way to another YouTube destination, but one of the questions a young lady asked him has stayed with me since then. Essentially, she wanted to know why Ravi would recommend God to a person who is happy the way she is without Him. In other words, “What can God do for me? What can He add to my experience?” And if the asker believes the answer to be, “Not much! I don’t feel any need for what He has to offer!” then… why bother?
I didn’t stay long enough to hear Ravi’s answer. But off and on all day, I thought about what I would say to her.
I arrived at the conclusion that the only answer I would have for the young woman is that the starting point of, “What can it do for me?” is the wrong starting point. Where a person needs to start when considering the question of “Why God?” or “Why Jesus?” (meaning, “Why should I believe what the Bible has to say about God/Jesus?”) is a place, not of, “Does it make me happy?” but, “Is it true?”
Now, my reasoning is not that an individual’s happiness or unhappiness is unimportant in the God + humanity equation. Quite the opposite! While the starting point, “Does it make me happy?” seems a little narcissistic–at the very least self-centred–it’s a natural starting point. Our own pain or pleasure levels are of vital importance to ourselves. Of course they are! They’re meant to be! The Bible tells us that they’re of vital importance to God, too (but also that He’s an end-game thinker). The Bible even teaches us that God experiences pain and pleasure and that our pain and pleasure levels directly affect God’s.
Now, the place of, “What makes God happy?” is obviously not the starting point for someone who has zero relationship with Him–who doesn’t care about God and His pain and pleasure levels; who doesn’t know Him at all; possibly doesn’t even believe there is a God. That consideration is properly the first consideration for those who do know and love Him. It’s one consideration that drives people to a mission field or other area of service, knowing from His own words and actions God’s passionate love for people, His joy in restored relationship with them, and His heartbreak over their rejection of and separation from Him. It is (or should be) a more important consideration than my own personal happiness quotient. But again, not the starting point for the one who doesn’t know Him. That, I believe, must be the question, “Is it true?”
As I chewed it over all day yesterday, it occurred to me that, even from the young lady’s own (very natural) self-focused perspective, the starter question, “What’s true?” has to come before the question, “What makes me happy?” The question of lasting happiness hinges on truth. If happiness is based on something that isn’t true, then it can’t last. Sooner or later, truth prevails. And when it does, happiness built on a sham will crumble. I’d be curious to ask the young lady if she’s after short-term happiness or the kind that lasts, even if it requires some short-term unhappiness. Because it is true that the truth often hurts. Temporarily. It hurts. It doesn’t harm. Only untruth harms, in the end.
Although, as Christians we should know better, having been well-warned by Jesus Himself, we do still tend to approach life as the young questioner on the Ravi Zacharias video. We tend to live in a place of, “Does it make me happy?”; not, “Is it true?”
And if following Jesus was meant to make us happy (short-term), I don’t think He would have compared obedience to Him to walking the road to a cross. To losing a life to find one. To hating father, mother, sister, brother, etc. in comparison to a love for Him. We have been well-warned. A life spent following Him will not be easy. It’s a promise.