LIFE, LIBERTY, AND THE PURSUIT OF HAPPINESS
As we once again approach July 4th festivities across our nation, our thoughts turn to many things that are considered “American”. For nearly 250 years, the people of the United States of America have been creating traditions that celebrate and represent (at least in our minds) freedom. If you grew up here, you likely immediately think of things like fireworks, parades, picnics, and fun with family and friends…to say nothing of corn on the cob, watermelon, potato salad, and grilled burgers! There has never been another nation on earth where individual liberties have been so honored and available to its citizens. And yet, in this culture and this period of history we often find ourselves taking for granted what so many have given their lives to obtain for us…and what so many around the world would give much to experience.
These freedoms and personal liberties were so important to our Forefathers that they were included in the first document declaring us to be a sovereign nation…The Declaration of Independence. (If you’d like to refresh your memory, follow this link: Declaration of Independence: A Transcription | National Archives) What I want to talk about today is an insightful statement that is often discussed with the wrong emphasis.
“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”
The usual discussions focusing on this statement emphasize our rights. We have a right to live, we have a right to be free, and above all – we have a right to be happy! This focus has led to our assumption that these rights should be guaranteed, resulting in shockwaves of indignation and violence when we perceive that they have been violated. While these may be important, the really significant part of the statement comes earlier and places the emphasis on the source of those rights!
When man was originally created in the image of God, he was endowed by his Creator with a trait found nowhere else in all of creation: a free will to choose his own direction and destiny. No plant or animal was given this most precious of gifts. “Why,” we ask ourselves, “would God take such a great risk – giving us the ability to make our own choices?”
I’d like to suggest to you that God wanted us to choose to love Him and decide on our own to have a wonderful relationship with Him that leads to our future destiny, both in this world and the next. He could certainly have created a race of robots that would have followed and served Him because they were programmed to do so! But how much more intimate and wonderful it is when we choose Him! And wonder of wonders – not even God will intervene and remove our free will! We are totally free to choose our own path and ultimately our own destiny.
So, what does this liberty mean to our daily lives as widows? That’s really a big question. As most of you realize by now, happiness is not just a blissful state of feeling good. Happiness is truly a “feel good” emotion, but how much better it is to be content with our present situation.
I Timothy 6:6 tells us, “But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out. And having food and raiment let us be therewith content.”
As I was considering this verse, two things suddenly occurred to me. The first is that this verse says nothing about needing a spouse along with food and clothing in order to be content! The second is that being content with my present situation appears to be a choice that I can make!
Being a widow at this season of my life is God’s will for me – but more than that! Being a widow at this season of my life is a calling from God for me. I can struggle against that, or I can choose to embrace it, and thereby gain deep contentment.
II Corinthians says, “Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.” And again, in John 8:36 we find the following: “If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed.”
In choosing to embrace the will of God, and in choosing a relationship with Him, I ultimately find the true meaning of freedom. I can step out of the chains of grief and loss, sorrow and sadness, and debilitating depression. I can begin to walk in the freedom of spirit that God intended for me.
I encourage you today to think about the great Freedom and Liberty that you have because you have a relationship with Christ. There’s a fascinating scripture in Romans 8:21 that speaks to this so clearly.
“…that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God.”
One day all of creation will step into a new era of freedom that it hasn’t known since sin entered the world, and with it death. Freedom from that heaviness is what God intended for us. It is inherently a part of the glory of being a child of God!
Today, as you think of Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness, consider stepping into your own new season of Freedom. Grief is a heavy burden to carry around, and something God never intended for us. Will you allow Him to walk with you and take that burden from you? He wants you to experience life-giving, freedom-giving, contentment-giving Liberty!
Oh, and enjoy the people, picnics, and parades!