“Dear Lord, the gods have been good to me and I am thankful. For the first time in my life everything is absolutely perfect the way it is. So here’s the deal: you freeze everything as it is and I won’t ask for anything more. If that is okay, please give me absolutely no sign. [pause] Okay, deal. In gratitude, I present to you this offering of cookies and milk. If you want me to eat them for you, please give me no sign. [pause] Thy will be done.”
That is the prayer Homer Simpson “offers” in an episode of The Simpsons as his wife, Marge, is trying to inform him that she is pregnant with the child that we come to know and love as Maggie. In Homer’s world, God does things for us to make us happy. But the Bible is clear that God is calling us to take actions that will make us holy. If God wanted us to be happy as the supreme state of being, then God would only have to lobotomize us and increase the remaining levels of endorphins, dopamine, oxytocin, and serotonin. Instant happiness is within our chemical brain make-up. However, God has something better in mind for us.
Those who come to know and love God, and seek to enact God’s will quickly discover that happiness is only one of the many layers of holiness. To seek to be made holy as God is holy is to pursue righteousness that changes us, those around us, and the world itself. Transformation brings out the marks of the Creator in everything, every person. We see the beauty buried under sinful inclination, and watch as it is unleashed upon the world in acts of kindness and mercy. Suddenly happiness is greater than our own personal happiness as it becomes a social state. We can glimpse this when Christians gather together to worship, and by the power of the Holy Spirit, become the Body of Christ, united in our love of the Father and purpose of glorifying Christ. When you can look around and see your joy reflected in the faces of others, you find a depth to happiness that you cannot witness in just yourself. So, sorry Homer, but we cannot be happy to stay where we are. There is always more and better to behold as grace unfolds. We cannot act as though this is the best there is, for we are not yet united with our Lord in the Kingdom to come, and there remains suffering all around and in others.
So we pray, individually and collectively. And then we stop, stilling our bodies and minds, to hear the response of God. At times it is assurance, and other times it is a call to action. Whatever God has to say to us, we cannot simply spit out our personal petition, and hurry God along into agreement. God knows what we need and hears what we want, but God is too good to give into our selfish desires. God seeks to transform us, not spoil us. Growing into a mature Children of God we were created to be is the pinnacle of our existence. It is to discover selflessness as a way of being, and becoming directional conduits to move others to God. God’s goodness flows to us and through us to others, and then we direct their joy and gratitude back to God. Their happiness is our happiness. We revel in the collective, the paradigm for the Kingdom of Heaven: unending worship in the eternal presence of God Almighty. Let’s slow down, ease the pace of our prayer. Let’s pause to discover the response of God, and look not for the temporary state of happiness, but the infinite nature of thankfulness: joy and contentment, even in the face of tragedy, the midst of suffering, and the presence of evil. For we trust that God will triumph over all of them, and God’s victory shall be our own. It is not happiness by which we live, but hope. Thus we pray as those who long to see that hope, our holiness, realized, not our own happiness made manifest.