can Christians be happy?

laundry hangs checkered on line, i’m washing dishes bubble-white and he’s sitting in blue bumbo making bubbles of his own and i feel this: Happy. Utter. Laugh-Lipped. Happy.

scoop baby close, cheek cashmere-soft against mine and he coos and i remember running this morning, hard against forest trail, light slicing like butter on toast through tree-tops fringed green with spring, and then too: Happy.

yet it followed me like a dog tugging tail-end of shirt, this guilt… why, on day of clean-laundry-line and hard-soiled-run? guilt from her message, yesterday in church… message of missionary standing loving upfront with hands moving this way and that, mouth saying this: “our faith is too cheap. it doesn’t cost us anything.”

at first i think, yes. i think of her, handing bibles out in communist china and living single, ever-serving far from family and friends, and i think yes: my life is comfort. i live in tidy home with love and homemade bread and wine and home-grown garden and baby climbing tall in too-many clothes and yes, this is comfort.

but is this wrong? is being happy as a Christian, wrong? when did guilt become a pre-requisite for grace?

i try hard, making cookies for next-door neighbor, writing articles for non-profit newspapers and books for christian publishers and selling paintings cheap so they might lighten bright this blackened soot world, but, is this enough?

then, the song… “when fears are stilled, when strivings cease… fullness of God in helpless babe… no guilt in life, no fear in death”… we’re singing this standing in church-communion after missionary message and i’m daring to believe in these humble lyrics, this truth of helpless babe, this knowing that by being happy, by running slapping feet against forest floor praising light from heaven’s roof, singing spring into the everlasting moment of today, i am being His.

grace is all about what He’s doing–not about anything i have or haven’t done. salvation is me, accepting this grace, every hour.

and that is the cost of my very rich faith. that is the worship i can offer, today.

happy for:

-forest floors and swollen sunshine

-baby’s milk breath

-stroller-walks to post office

-husband kisses

-homemade bread

-daffodils yellow in wind

for more of the grateful, visit



  1. Linda said,

    April 19, 2010 at 7:17 pm

    Oh yes Em. It has taken this heart so long to understand that guilt is not of Him – He is full of grace. He is not making to-do lists for me; He is calling me to come and draw close to Him and let the doing flow from that.
    We may not live in circumstances where the cost is obvious, but if we truly love Him with all our hearts there is a cost. There is a dying to self – this laying down of my will and embracing His. It may lead to “great works” or it may be the simple act of making cookies for a neighbor. He sees the heart.

  2. Meredith said,

    April 20, 2010 at 4:24 am

    I’m in the process of writing a paper on well-being, & found a few authors who said adamantly that Christians need to rediscover what it means to be happy, in order to bless the world with an example of what God has done for us. Often we can feel guilt about needing to DO more, but recently I’ve been learning that what really matters is the person I am BEing. (Check out the little book called “Sleeping with Bread”; it talks about adding life-giving things to our days, & finding God’s direction through these aspects which bring joy to our hearts.) Love you! Mer

  3. Nancy said,

    April 20, 2010 at 1:05 pm

    I found your blog through Holy Experience and stop by frequently. I enjoy your writing.

    Have been chewing on your question–it’s not an easy one, is it? It seems that our hearts should be broken by the things that break the heart of our Father. And yet, I know the enemy all too often tempts me to sadness, despair, cynicism, and unbelief when I see brokenness in my life, the lives of those I love, and the world at large. I feel wholly inadequate to make a difference. My prayers lately, though, have been about asking God to lift my head and open my eyes to where He is at work healing and transforming broken places and to see where I get to particpate in His work. It is easy for me to give in to despair; it is hard to work at being happy–to demonstrate trust that the battle is won and all will be well. Being part of the gratitude community has been a really helpful exercise in training me to lift my head and open my eyes.

    I love this quote from former President Ronald Reagan: “Enjoy life. It’s ungrateful not to.” I also marinate regularly in the words to “In Christ Alone.”

    Blessings to you. I’ll stop by your blog from time to time.

  4. April 22, 2010 at 9:41 pm

    I am coming over from Deb’s Talk at the Table. I love the way you string together words. Your post about rest below really hit me hard (I, too, am a non-rester).

  5. April 22, 2010 at 11:00 pm


    I completely agree with you. Sometimes I wallow in the what might have beens even. In regard to upbringing, choices, and the like. And yet , in the end, we are called to the higher calling of all our moments, in the moment.

    And somehow, I think you are serving in a very large way.

  6. Leslie said,

    August 26, 2010 at 2:20 am

    This must be my day to stumble upon your words/voice when I’m not expecting to. I was looking for the link to Imperfect Prose from my blog (to link for this week) and somehow ended up here, and I just have to comment on the grace in what you’ve written.

    GRACE! Can I write it again? GRACE! No, our faith didn’t cost us anything. It was a simple “yes” to His work already done. And I am rejoicing in the joyous truth He revealed to you in answer to your searching question, your “happiness” guilt.

    Because lately I’ve been talking to a lot of young people who feel very guilty about their youth, their health, their happy moments. They are looking to suffer. And I’ve been encouraging them that God is in control of that. Jesus says, “In this world you will have trouble.” It does come.

    But when He gives us happy moments, gifts from His grace to encourage us, we should smile. We should laugh. We should hug our babies and rejoice in the running and eat that pie and kiss our husbands and bake cookies for our neighbors and be thankful for the grace of these moments. They are given to strengthen us for the other times, the dark times when we wonder where He is and we feel so alone and the path is so hard and the task is so daunting.

    Maybe the missionary who spoke has been facing times like this. Maybe right now hers is the path of suffering, and her happy moments are few and temporarily forgotten. And perhaps this is why she spoke the way she did. I pray that God will help her to remember. His gift. His grace.

    Oswald Chambers says, “The main thing about Christianity is not the work we do, but the relationship we maintain and the atmosphere produced by that relationship. That is all God asks us to look after, and it is the one thing that is being continually assailed.”

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: