(The Story of John Stein by Mary Alysse Dodds)
I didn’t want to become a Christian. God will make me go to Africa, eat bland food like oatmeal for the rest of my life, and marry a fat, ugly lady, I thought. But I’m already miserable. At least if I follow Jesus I’ll be doing the right thing in my misery.
But doing what I wanted still seemed like it would make me happier.
Gradually, I learned and changed. I think I just did the right thing because I trusted God, and I ended up happy without trying.
Like when I stopped smoking pot every day. I started to taste again and see colors. I became motivated to do more than smoke pot. Sin clouded my life like pot. I was totally self-centered. I wanted to get away from relationships, but I had a wife and five children.
Okay, I’ll care about people because it’s good and God wants me to, I thought. But I really don’t want to miss out while I’m serving others.
I guess I thought I knew how to make myself happy better than God did. I honestly thought I was sacrificing something for others. I didn’t have the willpower not to get bitter, jealous, or angry because I didn’t think God had my best interest in mind. Doing the right thing was painful because I honestly thought I was giving up my happiness.
Now I see the colors. All sin is completely insane. It doesn’t benefit me or anyone else at all. Self-pity, pride, any sin is complete insanity. I’m not sacrificing for my family; I’m not giving up anything. That’s a bunch of baloney. Even if I am sacrificing, I’m not really.
God is already going to give me everything I could ever want. It’s just going to happen. He already decided. And there’s no more than everything, nothing more I could gain by pursuing my own self-interests.
I’m not missing out by not focusing on myself. God is going to perfectly fulfill me. Not necessarily in this life, but the same principle applies in this life—God will bless me and make me super happy.
Knowing God is taking care of my happiness, I can care about people even if they’re mean to me. I can love people who want to kill me or say bad things about me. I can be kind because God always has my best interest in mind.
Over 20 years later, I realize God is not a martyr. It’s not about trying to punish myself, having a miserable life, suffering, or missing out on happiness. I’m just more and more convinced that doing what is “right” is really 110% in my best interest.
Now I can’t understand why I would want to be proud, selfish, mean, impatient, or anything wrong. It’s totally not in my best interest. It’s not in anybody’s best interest. Sin makes everyone sad, but doing right makes everyone happy. How would I ever not want to do it?
We live in sin-induced insanity, but every day I see God’s beautiful reality when I do the right thing. Me living for myself is really what creates misery. Nothing could make me happier than obeying God.
John Stein is husband, father of five (including me), and grandfather of ten and counting. He’s a software engineer who spent four years in China studying Bible translation. He wears whatever’s most comfortable or suits his mood (if it gets a rise, good). He plays the bass, but his favorite pastime is thinking. Though he’s a recluse, he can talk for hours about God and he cries for persecuted Christians.