Greetings from Tomar, Portugal! Earlier today I explored the Convento de Cristo — a 12th-century castle that was formerly a Knights Templar, monastery, and convent. It kinda made me want to be a nun, cloistered and focused on God.
But then I wouldn’t be able to travel…and exploring castles makes me happy.
Yesterday I climbed several sets of stone stairways to the University of Coimbra, one of Europe’s first and Portugal’s oldest university. It was founded by Jesuits who were passionate about God and academics. They had a purpose: they brought science and faith to people who hadn’t met Jesus. It wasn’t always easy, but these missionaries were happy and fulfilled because they were pursuing what God called them to do.
Echoes of Portugal’s past reverberate in every corner and alleyway. I also hear them when I read David’s poetry, written thousands of years before these medieval castles, convents, and monasteries were built.
Early this morning I read Psalm 10. One verse jumped out: “Nothing will shake me; I’ll always be happy and never have trouble.”
At first glance, David’s words seem like something a Jesuit priest might have said hundreds of years ago. “Stand firm in the truth and you’ll never feel sad, hopeless or scared!”
But when you look closer, you see the truth.
The truth about happiness
David was writing about a false sense of security that never lasts.
He was referring to people who rely only on themselves. They think they know exactly who and what they need to be happy. They trust their own judgment above all else. They can’t see how vulnerable they are, how impermanent this world is. They refuse to trust God. They allow painful circumstances and confusing situations to shake their faith. They follow their hearts and emotions, whims and impulses…and they believe they’ll never be shaken.
If you think you deserve to feel happy all the time, then you’ll constantly be disappointed. If you think believing in God should protect you from grief, then you’ll stop trusting Him. If you think being a Christian is easy, then you’ll give up at the first sign of trouble.
The truth is that no matter how faithful or good you are, no matter how much you pray, and no matter how often you go to church you’ll face hard times. Your faith will be shaken, you’ll lose people you love, and you’ll be confused and even angered by your life.
Life has always been a mixture of bitter and sweet for everyone, and it always will be. It’s not circumstances or people that make us happy…it’s a solid foundation of faith, love, and identity.
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How to always be happy
Expect to experience all types of seasons in your life: easy, hard, fun, sad, joyful, bitter, safe, thrilling, scary, light, dark, boring, adventurous. Enjoy the good seasons, knowing they won’t last. Keep walking through the painful seasons with hope and faith — knowing they will pass and you will feel good again if you can tap into the only wellspring of life that really matters.
I’ve been in almost constant physical pain since I broke my shoulder five weeks ago (Why You’re Safe Everywhere – Blossom Tip 56). Percocet is excellent at relieving the pain for a few hours, but I’ve found something better: an internal source of joy, peace and bounceback-ability. It’s not me being positive or optimistic. It’s Jesus.
He created you for a purpose — and it’s not just to be happy.
Nobody can be happy all the time…but disciples of Jesus can dig into and permanently live in His wellspring of peace, joy, and freedom. He offers something better and more permanent than happiness.
The secret to long-lasting peace and joy, which the Jesuits shared with Portugal, is to find something you’re passionate about and grow into who God created you to be. It’s to trust Jesus even when you’re heartbroken, to rebuild your relationship with God even after you’ve strayed far away.
What are you passionate about? When you look back on your life, where do you see God’s fingerprints?
With His love from Portugal,
Previous Blossom Tips
- What to Do While You’re Waiting – Blossom Tip 57
- Why You’re Safe Everywhere – Blossom Tip 56
- Bridging the Gap Between You and God – Blossom Tip 55