Pursuit of Happiness
Hello. My name is Cristina. I was born in Panama my family and I immigrated to Canada when I was 9. My sister came to Christ shortly after arriving in Canada. She introduced me to Christ, and I entertained the idea of Christianity for a couple of years during my teens. I even went to church regularly, made friends, attended Sunday school, sang in the choir, and went to retreats and Bible studies. A friend reminded that I even attended baptismal classes. My experience with the gospel at that time reminds me of the parable of the sower in Mathew Chapter 13.
“And as he sowed, some seeds fell along the path, and the birds came and devoured them. 5?Other seeds fell on rocky ground, where they did not have much soil, and immediately they sprang up, since they had no depth of soil, 6?but when the sun rose they were scorched. And since they had no root, they withered away.
20?As for what was sown on rocky ground, this is the one who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy, 21?yet he has no root in himself, but endures for a while, and when tribulation or persecution arises on account of the word, immediately he falls away.”?
Sadly, I was a seed that fell on rocky ground. I received the good news with joy, but it had no substance. It was not accompanied by change – no transformation, no new life – no real faith. I still relied and depended solely on myself. I believed the gospel and that Christ came to die for our sins, but did not believe that he died for me because I didn’t sin that much. Surely I had never done anything bad enough that would require someone to die for me. It was nice that Christ was great enough to do that, but he did it for others, not for me. I didn’t need him.
My life before coming to know Christ revolved around myself. I rebelled against God and lived only to please myself. I believed that if I tried to be a good person, and avoided pleasing myself at the expense of hurting others, then I was living a righteous life. I did not need to be labeled as a ‘Christian’ to be a good person. I grew further and further from God. During those days I gained my happiness and security solely on material things and believed that I had the ability to control all things in my life.
Looking back, those years were the darkest and most painful years of my life. I thought I had the world in my hands and was free to do anything I liked. It was exciting. But I was never happy. I came to realize that there could never be any one thing that would give me ultimate happiness. I could work my whole life towards achieving a goal, such as a career or buying that designer handbag, thinking that once I had achieved or acquired it, I would be happy. And I worked really really hard towards those goals, only to find that once I had attained it, it didn't make me happy the way I thought it would. I was always left yearning for something more. Happiness was not constant. What made me happy one minute might have no effect on me the next. Worse yet, I discovered that what made me happy one moment, such as a deep flourishing friendship, could thoroughly hurt and break me through a simple act of betrayal. All of this led me to really question what the meaning of life is. Is there a point in working towards anything? Does happiness even exist?
So how did I come to receive Christ and start this amazing new life? It started with one incident. It was the most painful thing that had ever happened to me and at the same time the greatest and most joyful event in my life. As I just mentioned briefly above, it was through a betrayal by a close friend. I was deeply hurt. Now, most of you do not know me personally, but those of you who do will know that I am pretty strong. Maybe I don’t look it physically, but I am pretty strong in character. I am used to things not working out perfectly, of having to work for things and not have things spoon-fed to me, and I do not complain. When I fall I just concentrate on getting right back up. I have always been able to rely on my own strength to pick myself up after a fall. But this time it was a very hard fall. I was completely broken. I looked inside of me and it was the first time that I didn’t know if I could survive on my own strength. I was scared. I knew that bitterness and hatred was brewing inside of me, and also knew that it would act like venom, poisoning everything in life, taking the joy out of everything. I knew that the only way to battle this was to forgive, but I also knew that I did not have the power in me to do that.
It was during this time that I experienced God’s grace and mercy. When I couldn’t conjure up any strength to carry on, He carried me in what I felt and still feel as miraculous ways. He sent a friend who I hadn’t spoken to for almost a decade back into my life. This friend was a Christian, and when I told her my sad story, her reaction was so markedly different from the reactions of my other friends that it made me think. My non-Christian friends were feeding me with thoughts of hatred, vengeance, and anger. And the ones who didn’t were at a complete loss and didn’t even know what to say to me or how to help. In contrast, my Christian friend painted me a picture of forgiveness and healing. It was during that time that I came to truly experience the love of Christ. I remembered the story of Christ and it deeply touched me. How Christ came to this earth knowing that he would be betrayed by his friend. Knowing this, he still loved his betrayer, he still invested time, energy, and love into building that relationship. Having just experienced the pain of betrayal, I could say for certain that I would not have invested my energy and love in a person who I knew would betray me. How great must be Christ’s love for us if He knowingly did all of that and died for people who rejected, humiliated, and chastised him?
It was at that time that I accepted Christ. By His grace I came into full realization of how much I had grieved Him during my rebellious years and how sinful I was. All of a sudden I was overwhelmed with my true sinful self. All the arguments I used to convince myself that I was “a good person” were shattered. I looked at myself and was fully and utterly ashamed. But our God is a merciful God; he does not abandon us. He gives us a way out, a way to be saved. I accepted Christ that day as my personal saviour.
He also freed me from the bondage of anger and bitterness against my friends. For along with the realization that I was a sinner, came the understanding that I was not qualified to judge. Jesus said in Matthew Chapter 7 “Judge not, that you be not judged. 2?For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you. 3?Why do you see the speck that is in your brother's eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? 4?Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye?” By God’s grace I was finally able to see the log in my own eye. I asked God to help me forgive and let go of the bitterness in my heart. God is faithful and generous.
It has been a little over two years since that time. I have been attending CGC and have been blessed with a group of God-centered brothers and sisters to fellowship with, and counselors and teachers who teach me and help me to get to know God more everyday. Relying on God for strength, I was able to forgive my friends. If you ask me what the biggest change in my life has been since I came to know Christ, my answer would be the joy in my heart. That happiness that I have described above, that I have lived most of my life trying to achieve but have never found, I have finally found in Christ. I am filled with joy when I open up the bible and read his words. I am eager and delighted when I do what He wants. I am confident in what I do because I rely on God to be my strength.