God created us for pleasure and happiness -- His and ours. He put Adam and Eve in a perfectly beautiful garden with indescribably delicious fruit. They had a perfectly wonderful relationship with God and each other. There was no stress, no cell phones, no schedules to keep and no standards to fall short of. They chatted with God every day and strolled through the garden together in the cool of the evening. There was nothing hindering their intimacy (into-me-see) with God and one another. It was blissful. All they had to do was trust God and depend upon Him to provide everything their hearts desired.
Then one day, that old serpent, the devil, threw a monkey wrench into the system. He lied to them and told them God was a self-centered narcissist who cared only for Himself. He told them the only tree God warned them not to eat was the best in the whole garden, and God was keeping the good stuff for Himself. Tragically, they believed him. When they believed the lie, they died spiritually just like God told them they would.
Now, they had a real problem. They were cut off from intimacy with God. Shame consumed them. They grabbed fig leaves and headed for the bushes, afraid to face God. Their trust turned to fear. But they still had needs screaming to be met. Since they didn't trust God to meet them because now they were afraid of Him, they became insanely selfish endeavoring to meet their own needs at the expense of the other. Instead of assuming responsibility for their wrong choices, they started to play the "blame game."
When confronted by God, Adam blamed both Eve and God. "It was that woman YOU gave me." Eve blamed the snake. "The serpent deceived me." And the snake, well, he didn't have a leg to stand on. And so began mankind's quest to get his physical, emotional and spiritual needs met without dependence on the only one who has the resources to meet them all -- God, Himself.
The propagation of the original lie continues today which says, "You can't trust God. He is a cosmic killjoy. He doesn't care about you. You need to take care of No. 1. Forget about Him and everybody else, and grab all the gusto you can get while you can."
The world system, the flesh and the devil have sold us a bill of goods that says happiness comes from having our needs met. But since we have believed the lie that God can't be trusted, we persist in the pursuit of happiness on our own terms. What we fail to understand is we were created inherently happy. Everything we need to be happy and fulfilled in life is programmed into us by our Creator if we would only trust and depend upon Him totally.
There are three things that prevent us from living in the freedom and joy God ordained for us: Our beliefs, our attachments and our fears.
No one has an absolutely truthful belief system because of the fall in the garden. Our beliefs are tainted. Since we don't fully trust God, we rely upon ourselves to get our needs for significance and worth met. We do some pretty stupid things, which often rupture relationships, which God created to meet the very needs we are trying to satisfy.
The second happiness hindrance is attachments. An attachment is a state of emotional clinging that comes from the false belief that something or someone is necessary for our happiness. God says everything we need for abundant life is found in Him. We don't need anything else. "His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and goodness." (2 Peter 1:3 NIV)
The third happiness wrecker is fear. Fear is False Evidence Appearing Real. "God has not given us a spirit of fear, but one of love, power and a sound mind." (2 Timothy 1:7) The Bible tells us "perfect love drives out fear." (I John 4:18) If we really knew and understood how much God really loves us, we would have no problem trusting Him. And if we trusted and relied upon Him to take care of us, we would have no fear that anything or anybody could harm us. The Bible says, "Greater is He (God) that is in us, that he (satan) that is in the world." (I John 4:4) Fear comes because we place more faith in the devil than we do God.
Because of our beliefs, attachments and fears, we often find ourselves abused, rejected and betrayed by others who are trying to get their needs met at our expense. Don't feel bad. We are all in the same boat. We all do it. We are all selfish and scared to death of not being loved and accepted. That's why we are not free to just be ourselves. To be what God created us to be -- no more, no less. We try to be what everybody else wants us to be, so we can manipulate them into meeting our needs. How sick is that? And yet there is an epidemic in our society.
Do you ever feel lonely? Disconnected? Depressed? Angry? Discouraged? Joyless? Like you have a cement block on your chest? Like you just ran a marathon, and they tell you to keep running? Are you having trouble sustaining harmonious relationships? Are you sick and tired of being sick and tired?
Well, Papa God invites you to "lay aside every weight and the sin which does so easily beset you." (Hebrews 12:2)
Come and experience the healing, loving grace of God for those wounds and heaviness you've been carrying around for years. He never meant for you to be burdened down with the weight of past hurts and experiences.
Lay Aside Every Weight seminar will be held from 6 to 8 p.m. for five Sundays, April 19-May 17 at River Hills Community Church. Small children child care is provided. And, it's free.
This event will positively transform your life. If you are ready for it, call the church office to sign up at 803-831-1615, or e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org. We'll be expecting you. Invite some friends. Don't put it off. Just do it.
Kenny Ashley is pastor of discipleship and teaching for River Hills Community Church. He can be reached at email@example.com.