In a Peanuts comic strip, Charlie Brown asked Linus, “Do you ever think much about the future, Linus?” Linus responded, “Oh, yes, all the time.” Charlie then asked, “What do you think you’d like to be when you grow up?” Linus replied, “When I grow up, I’d like to be outrageously happy.”
Wouldn’t we all? We pursue many things in life, but at the base of most of the pursuits is the pursuit of happiness. Unfortunately, pursuing happiness and actually catching up with it are two different matters. Happiness is elusive game. You can catch a glimpse of it every now and then, but actually capturing it is a very difficult thing to do.
A standard ending to many of the old fairy tales was “They lived happily ever after.” Ernest Campbell once suggested that in observing so many tales of unhappiness today, perhaps we should give a new twist to the old ending. Many stories today would end with the line, “They lived happily never after.”
But then you come to three stories told by Jesus in Luke 15 – the stories of the lost sheep, the lost coin, and the lost boy. They are three stories, and, yet, they are three versions of the same story. The thread of joy ties all of them together. The note of joy is sounded again and again in these three powerful stories.
Joy is often experienced against the backdrop of sorrow. All three stories tell of the pain of loss and separation.
There are scores of channels that you can choose from to watch on TV these days. There is a weather channel, news channels, old movie channels, and many others. But have you noticed? There is no “happiness channel.” You can’t just switch channels to happiness on television or in life. Life comes with its share of painful losses.
So, how can we experience happiness in the midst of life that is marked by so many painful losses? One of the things that we can do is cultivate a sense of appreciation for what we have now. Did the shepherd, the woman, and the father in these stories appreciate what they had before the loss occurred? I really doubt it. Neither do we.
Emerson once said that if the stars came out only one night a year, everybody would stay up all night to look at them. Since they come out every night, however, we seldom give them a second look. And since we are around our possessions, our money, and our sons all the time, we seldom give them a second look. I challenge you today… Look! Thank God for what you have. Let the blessings that you enjoy today be the source of your joy. Don’t wait until you lose them before you see how blessed you are.