It was time to go home. Our much-looked-forward-to holiday in the south west had come to an end and we were about to start our journey home to East Anglia. The journey would take about six hours, without the inevitable traffic delays. Radio programmes, news on the hour and music would break the journey’s monotony. What a come-down to face reality again after such a lovely holiday! Long car journeys also give me time to think. At one point, having by this time, become well informed several times of the state of the war torn areas of the Yemen and Syria and the political debates, I found my thoughts interrupted by the words of two songs. The choruses of those songs were part of modernised hymns by Matt Redman. The first contained the well-known words, ‘It is well, it is well with my soul.’ and the second taken from the hymn ‘At the cross’ written by Isaac Watts in 1707
‘At the cross, at the cross, Where I first saw the light And the burden of my heart rolled away. It was there by faith I received my sight And now I am happy all the day.’
I realised that many people who attended church would testify that it was well with their souls. How many people though would claim to be happy all the day? I suspect that many would admit to not being happy all the time.
I believe that, for numerous folk, the assurance of their faith becomes a tangible reality because they accept the life, crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus for themselves. Others, however, see happiness as being dependent on our circumstances, of how life is treating us, how successful we are and a host of other seeming essentials to being ‘happy’. What if we redefined the word ‘happiness’ with a qualification of our attitude to ourselves; how we handle our circumstances and those things which cross our path which endeavour to pull us down and rob us of our faith and ability to persevere when everything seems to be against us. The happiness which is securely seated in our hearts is unshakeable. It is neither fleeting nor superficial. It is firmly based, so much so, that it rides out the storms and whatever difficulties we find ourselves in. Happiness sustains our hope and hope sustains our happiness. It reveals a contentment of the soul. Trust and patience replace the agitation which conflicts with happiness. Life in general takes on new dimensions when we realise the true depth of happiness.
Happiness and bitterness cannot walk side by side. It cannot accommodate the self-indulgence of emotions which evolve out of anger, revenge or self-destruction either towards ourselves or someone else. Happiness has been given to us by the Giver of life and is embodied in the life which flows from the cross.
Why do we not experience this ’happiness’? Jesus warned his disciples of coming trouble and said, ‘I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete.’ (John 15:11). This is this joy that is there when men set their hearts against you. I wondered if the simplicity of life has been replaced with the complicated working out of new and better ways of doing things. It is so easy to miss the point and remove the individual choice of being who we really are without conforming to the need for bigger and better ways of experiencing life’s attractions. In other words, can we really work ‘happiness’ out or is it to be found in the small and apparent irrelevancies of each day? Could it be found in a thought or a kindness which can be accepted or acted upon? Is it found in an appreciation that what we cannot change we can face with courage; we can resolve not to become entrenched and seek revenge. Do we know the meaning of, ‘in all things God works for the good of those who love him’? (Romans 8:28).
The cross makes it possible for God to always be with us and because of that even the most insignificant and mundane parts of our lives can contain the deep joy that will mean we can honestly sing, ‘And now I am happy all the day.’