Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Does Christianity Make You Happy?

    Recently a friend asked me this very question: does Christianity make you happy and give you peace?
    I was taken aback by the fact that I've never heard this question before. You'd think if you followed a religion you'd want to consider if it makes you happy. But I haven't.
    Why? Well, I guess I've always equated happiness with frivolity and selfishness. After all, happiness doesn't necessarily equal good - for example, getting drunk would make me happy, but I wouldn't consider it good. And Jesus did imply that following him equaled suffering. So I'd long dismissed my happiness as unnecessary, something secular people chased after, but not us Christians who knew better (I know, how condescending - I'm sorry). But as A True Christian, I had joy, which was somehow deeper and more fulfilling than happiness.
    Except I've never actually had joy - well, not for long. People say it's a fruit of the spirit, so because I'm a Christian, I assumed I had to have joy.
    But guess what? I don't. All I've got is a gritty, bleeding hope that keeps me crawling forward (And, gee, I wonder if my dismissal of happiness has anything to do with my depression, hmm).

    Anyways. Back to the question.
    There's your answer. Christianity doesn't make me happy. I am far from peaceful for a variety of reasons, but religious turmoil is a significant contributor.
    So what do I do? What do I do when the religion that gave my life meaning inflicts misery?
    As an evangelical with low self-esteem, I would have told myself that I'm putting all the misery on myself. That it's not the religion that is the problem, that it's my depression and anxiety and my haunted past, and maybe it's my fault, too. Clearly, I just don't understand something about God.
    Except ... I don't actually think God or religion itself depresses me.
    Christian people do.
    It's like I'm hiding every time I see them. Because I'm not a typical evangelical anymore.
    My mother, for instance, doesn't know I can't do daily Bible readings without panic attacks. She still thinks I attend church on Sundays. And she still thinks those are the marks of a dedicated Christian, so how am I supposed to tell her I can't do those anymore without losing my sanity?
    The church I grew up in, the church with the people whose encouragement probably saved my life, doesn't know I've shifted to a more progressive stance (feminism, LGBTQ+ equality, evolution, leans towards Christian universalism, etc.). And I'm scared to death they'll reject me. I'm scared I'm a disappointment, that they'll use me as another example of a proverbial young innocent led astray by liberal college professors. Because that's not what happened - changing my opinions has been one of the most traumatic parts of my life. It was anything but easy. I changed because I honestly believe this way - the supremacy of love, justice for all mankind - is the way of God.
    But I so fear being misunderstood, especially by people I've loved for so long. So I keep up this appearance of the good evangelical Christian - though I'm not her, and I can't be her.
    And so anxiety plagues me and depression haunts me and fear chains me.
    No, Christianity itself is not the problem. Because you know what gives me that gritty hope?
    Jesus. A God so good and personal He lived among us, who died blessing his enemies, a God so powerful he rose again, a God so beautiful he was plain. A God who provides a physical resurrection, who is Love itself.  A God of never-ending redemption.
     So, do your beliefs make you happy? Or joyful, or both?



  1. My beliefs make me hopeful;)

  2. That's where I'm at too. :D And hope is so important, I think.