Well, the news has been rough lately. Turn it on and it’s all bad news: Another church shooting. Another theater shooting. More Christians martyred by ISIS. Planned Parenthood selling the organs of healthy human fetuses.
The terrible things seem to be not only more common, but also worse and worse. And the stories can, if we let them, send us into chronic despair.
But we should remember two things: First, television news shows pick and choose among the stories to tell. We don’t see, for example, stories about how many Chinese citizens came to faith in Christ last week. We don’t hear accounts of how many children were fed and clothed in Uganda by Christian missionaries. Good things are happening every day. And God continues to turn what was intended for evil into good as well.
The second thing we should remember is that we who have salvation through Christ have a source of great joy.
In his later years, Chuck Colson thought quite a lot about happiness—about who had it and who didn’t. It intrigued him to learn that Americans—who have one of the highest standards of living in the world—are among the unhappiest people on earth; we down tranquilizers by the shovelful. Yet Nigerians, who have a low standard of living, are among the happiest people on the planet.
Chuck wrote enough memos on happiness to fill an entire chapter in a new book titled, “My Final Word.” The book is a collection of never-before published memos that Chuck wrote to all sorts of people. And let me tell you, he had quite a few ideas of how we can live joyfully even during disturbing times in history.
For example, Chuck, a man who made a good living as an attorney, worked in the White House and was honored by royalty, wrote: “When I look at my life in its full sweep, what I realize is that the only things that give me sustained joy—indeed, the kind of inexpressible joy that the apostle Paul talks about—have to do with the people I’ve helped: [For example,] the men in the prisons I’ve introduced to Christ.” Chuck also experienced joy when people came up to him and told him one of his books changed their lives, or saved their marriage.
Chuck also remembered with joy his service in the Marine Corps. “Military service,” he wrote, “is truly altruistic service…You care about how other people live so you’re willing to sacrifice yourself for them.”
Something Chuck never mentioned in his public writings was the fact that he and his wife, Patty, supported a child through World Vision—an act that also gave him real satisfaction.
Of course, dwelling on the latest news isn’t the only joy-robbing danger served up by our televisions. During the commercial breaks, Madison Avenue is desperately trying to get us to believe that we’ll gain true happiness if we just buy enough toys. But Chuck would have none of that. He believed that helping others resulted in far more joy than having the latest sports car, or devoting your life to playing golf. In fact, I remember Chuck telling me he’d never retire to the links. He loved serving God too much for that. And besides, as Chuck wrote, one day the great capitals of the world will crumble into dust, “but the soul is eternal.” “Therefore, what we do for the human soul is incomparably more important than what we do for the transient things of this world.”
And this, he adds, “is why so many writers—T.S. Eliot chief among them—talked about the society of permanent things—that is, those values and enduring qualities of life. These are the things that really count.”
The late Malcolm Forbes once said that the person who dies with the most toys wins. The pre-conversion Chuck might have agreed. But the post-conversion Chuck had much more accurate ideas about happiness: The happiest people on earth are those who follow Christ, and spend their lives in His service.
Chuck has a great deal more to say about happiness in this marvelous book. I hope you’ll come to our online bookstore at BreakPoint.org to get yourself and your friends a copy of “My Final Word.”
BreakPoint is a Christian worldview ministry that seeks to build and resource a movement of Christians committed to living and defending Christian worldview in all areas of life. Begun by Chuck Colson in 1991 as a daily radio broadcast, BreakPoint provides a Christian perspective on today’s news and trends via radio, interactive media, and print. Today BreakPoint commentaries, co-hosted by Eric Metaxas and John Stonestreet, air daily on more than 1,200 outlets with an estimated weekly listening audience of eight million people. Feel free to contact us at BreakPoint.org where you can read and search answers to common questions.
John Stonestreet, the host of The Point, a daily national radio program, provides thought-provoking commentaries on current events and life issues from a biblical worldview. John holds degrees from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School (IL) and Bryan College (TN), and is the co-author of Making Sense of Your World: A Biblical Worldview.
Publication date: August 5, 2015