Every two weeks or so I have dinner with a group of men who’s purpose is to become “steadfast companions”.  We have studied the lives of the “Clapham Friends” most notably William Wilberforce to see what our God given responsibility should be in our community.  We are still searching for significance and passion for the social injustices we should address.  The “Friends of Clapham” were responsible for the abolition of slavery and a number of other social issues of Great Britain.  Their story is amazing!

At our last dinner, one of our vocal members begins our conversation with a piercing question.  What am I talking about.  ALL of our members are vocal and will ask anything at anytime.  Our group could best be described as conflicted.  OK! Back to the question.  ” Can we be happy?”  A simple to the point question.  An hour later we agreed on the answer I will describe below which came from the mother of one of our members.

Wayne’s mother grew up in the coal fields of Eastern Kentucky.  Poor would not describe the way she was raised.  They were so poor that her parents basically sold her to a neighbor because they could not feed her.  Wayne’s mother grew up down the road from her parents as an indentured servant.  Wayne was able to give his mother many things through the years and at one point asked his mother if she ever remembers being HAPPY.  She responded with the following words: ” I don’t ever remember being happy……but I was content”.  The picture above ( captured by my friend Greg Thompson) is a women I encountered when I was on the train in Peru headed up to Machu Picchu.  She does not look happy but she does look content.

We sat in silence trying to figure out the difference between happiness and contentment.  One of our members said that Jesus never promised happiness.  I quickly reminded him of the “Sermon on the Mount” where Jesus spoke of happiness.  A very brisk discussion began which even got out the Bible to settle the argument.  Below are the words of Jesus from Matthew 5 where he speaks of happiness.

5:2-12 – Then he began his teaching by saying to them,

“How happy are those who know their need for God, for the kingdom of Heaven is theirs!

“How happy are those who know what sorrow means for they will be given courage and comfort!

“Happy are those who claim nothing, for the whole earth will belong to them!

“Happy are those who are hungry and thirsty for goodness, for they will be fully satisfied!

“Happy are the merciful, for they will have mercy shown to them!

“Happy are the utterly sincere, for they will see God!

“Happy are those who make peace, for they will be sons of God!

“Happy are those who have suffered persecution for the cause of goodness, for the kingdom of Heaven is theirs!

“And what happiness will be yours when people blame you and ill-treat you and say all kinds of slanderous things against you for my sake! Be glad then, yes, be tremendously glad – for your reward in Heaven is magnificent. They persecuted the prophets before your time in exactly the same way.

So there is our answer.  Happiness is found through times of suffering.  I feel Jesus was reminding us that “happiness” could be more of a state of contentment through understanding suffering.

Seek contentment over happiness.  My hope is you will become “Conflicted” like me and my friends where I think you will discover the Power of Jesus in our lives.