A few weeks ago, on the last day of our holiday, we decided to grab some food from McDonalds. It was a rather unusual decision for us, but taking my Mom to the airport that morning, me being super sad as a result, struggling with the worst morning sickness EVER, and it being the night before we were going to drive back to Gordon’s Bay combined to create the perfect storm for the quick escape to the drive thru at Mickey D’s. We were a little excited about the fact that the Bear would be getting his first ever happy meal. We drove off with our goodies, and arrived at the place we were staying to discover one small problem.

The Happy Meal had NO TOY!

And the toy is the point of the Happy Meal, am I right? That’s what makes the Happy Meal so happy!

The Bear didn’t seem bothered in the least. I however, glancing at the receipt and seeing that we’d been specifically charged for the nonexistent toy, was bothered. For me, the Bear’s first Happy Meal was unhappy.

A couple of days ago a friend of mine wrote me because she was in the middle of a really tough situation. Some big changes had happened in her life, and she felt like things were unfair. She was angry at a friend who had hurt her, and it seemed like God was punishing her and blessing her friend. She felt like God could not be good or loving or fair, because of what had happened. I wrote her back quickly to let her know I was really glad she wrote me, and glad to be there for her, and then I took some time to think before writing to respond to the struggles she wrote me about.

As I typed out what I felt the Lord was putting on my heart, I thought it might be an encouraging word for some of you as well, so I want to share some of it with you here. {Adapted slightly for this space.}

[…] The hardest truth for us to grasp as Christians (I think) is that God doesn’t save us so that we will be happy. He saves us so that we can have a relationship with Him. He actually promises us that we are going to have trials and tribulations (really hard times) in this life, (John 16:33) but He tells us to be joyful anyway — He has already overcome all these hard times, and He will be with us, to help us overcome them.

The truth is, I don’t believe God wanted you to be treated the way you have been treated. He has instructed us to love each other and treat each other with kindness, the way we want to be treated. It seems clear that your friend did not show you love and kindness in the way you were treated. It is clear that you’re hurting because of how you were handled. That was NOT NOT NOT what God wanted. God does not want us to treat each other badly — so I think it’s important for you to remember this key point: Bad things happen to us, but often they are NOT God’s will.

God has given us free will and freedom of choice. That means we have the ability to choose to love Him, and to love each other (or not love each other.) He doesn’t force us to love Him. He doesn’t force us to treat each other kindly. He gives us the freedom to make our own choices each day. (If He forced us to do the right thing, we would be like robots — not humans, and our love wouldn’t really mean anything.)

Exercising this freedom of choice, your friend chose to hurt you. It may seem like God is blessing him right now, but that does not mean God is pleased with what he did to you. You can trust that at some point God is going to deal with him — God cares about us asking for forgiveness when we do things in the wrong way. He has grace for our sin, but in His good timing, He also helps us to see where we’ve gone astray. You will have to trust God to deal with your friend in the way that God wants to deal with him. Maybe he didn’t know God before now, and God wants to gently lead him as he begins his walk with Him. There will come a time when God will begin to work on his heart and help him understand how he ought to treat people, perhaps even how he should’ve treated you…but you have to trust those things to God’s timing. […]

Do you ever struggle because things don’t work out in a way that will produce happiness in your life? Have you ever stopped to think that your Happy Meal might not be God’s number one priority?

When things don’t go my way, when cameras get stolen or relationships end or the internet is acting up and won’t let me speak to my Mama when I want to, I sometimes find that my first response is “Why God, why? Did I do something wrong? What did I do to deserve this?” But the truth is, we’re in a fallen world. Bad stuff happens every day. People treat each other badly every day.

Jesus didn’t promise: Life with Me will never give you lemons. He did, however, promise, Stick with me and we’ll make some amazing lemonade out of every lemon that comes your way. (That’s a very rough paraphrase of Romans 8:28)

And sometimes the lemons coming our way, the yuck and muck we are walking through, is the BEST thing for us. Sometimes staying where we belong means staying in the fire when it is hot and difficult and all we want is OUT OUT OUT.

I wrote a little about that to my friend as well, and I’ll share it with you on Wednesday.

I must conclude by mentioning that the Bear was pretty happy with his {un}happy meal. He ate some fries and some burger, and stared at the interesting and colourful box for quite some time. As I think about it, it reminds me how different our attitudes would be if we were thankful for all that we do have, instead of focusing on what’s missing.

Between now and our chat on Wednesday…if you struggle with the Lord when life doesn’t make you happy, care to share with the rest of us how you get to the other side?