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Religious Reflections

Where is the happiness?

Pastor Jelmar Groenewold

Several years ago celebrity Brad Pitt made a startling statement while he was being interviewed by Rolling Stone magazine:

"The emphasis now is on success and personal gain. [smiles] I'm sitting in it, and I'm telling you, that's not it. I'm the guy who's got everything. I know. But I'm telling you, once you've got everything, then you're just left with yourself. I've said it before and I'll say it again: it doesn't help you sleep any better, and you don't wake up any better because of it. (Rolling Stone, 10-28-99 as quoted by Bill White, Paramount, Calif.)

Several years ago Pastor Jack Hinton was leading a song service at a leper colony on the island of Tobago. A woman who had been facing away from the speaker's platform turned around.

"It was the most hideous face I had ever seen," Hinton confided later. "The woman's nose and ears were entirely gone. She lifted a fingerless hand in the air and asked, "Can we sing Count Your Many Blessings?"

What's more unbelievable? That a super rich and successful movie star hasn't found satisfaction in his wealth and success? Or that a super poor and diseased woman has the ability to sing "Count Your Many Blessings" because she is truly satisfied?

I would have to admit that the diseased and disfigured woman still seems more unbelievable to me.

After all, Brad Pitt's message of dissatisfaction with wealth and success is believable. Dissatisfaction with wealth has been echoed in the media countless times. But, if you listen carefully, that same dissatisfaction can be heard in your conversations with co-workers and friends. I suspect, that if you are like me, you will hear yourself echoing Brad Pitts words.

Sooner or later we all need to admit that money and success can't buy us happiness. But, how then, did an extremely diseased and deformed woman find such happiness that she could count her blessings?

This victim of leprosy experienced a level of happiness that was not affected by her circumstances. This woman had learned the secret of contentment whether her circumstances were plush or impoverished.

Truly, this woman's level of happiness astounds me more than Brad Pitt's level of dissatisfaction. But, what astounds me most of all is that this woman's satisfaction is available to you and me.

The God who wrote the Bible has coined a new name for this level of happiness that remains unaffected by circumstances. The name: JOY. He coined it because He is the one who offers joy to you and me. This joy is an inner attitude made available by His Son Jesus Christ. I have seen it bring satisfaction when bank accounts have been bursting and when they have been begging--even in my own circumstances.

In the same interview mentioned above Brad Pitt admitted, "I say toss all this--we gotta find something else. Because all I know is that at this point in time, we are heading for a dead end, a numbing of the soul, a complete atrophy of the spiritual being. And I don't want that."

My prayer is that Brad Pitt and you may experience the joy that the Father of Jesus Christ can give.

- Pastor Jelmer Groenewold, Sunnyside Christian Reformed Church.

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