Can I Trash Expectations and Still Be Happy? With Amanda Held Opelt [Episode 293]

Trash Expectations Still Happy Amanda Held Opelt

What does it mean to be blessed? Are Christians automatically entitled to happiness, fulfillment, and perfect peace? Should God’s presence guarantee us emotional ease amidst suffering?

Wow! Those are some very interesting questions, aren’t they?

Well today, you’ll get far more than interesting answers. You are going to be enlightened and inspired as we consider our expectations of what a life of faith should feel like as we face difficulties.

Because often in our culture, we do everything we can to avoid uncomfortable feelings, difficult emotions, and the sting of painful experiences. If there’s a negative feeling, we think we can hack it, and we leverage our faith to that end.

But what if our sadness serves a divine purpose? What if there’s holiness even in our unhappiness?

Author Amanda Held Opelt joins us today on the 4:13 and shares her own experience of loss and grief where, like so many others, she expected her faith to cushion her from the pains of life. But when it didn’t, she was left disappointed and disillusioned.

So today, she debunks the myth that if you’re struggling emotionally, something must be wrong. She’ll explain what the emotional prosperity gospel is, adjust your expectations of how faith shows up in your feelings, and help you reimagine what it really means to be blessed.

Meet Amanda

Amanda Held Opelt is a speaker, songwriter, and author of the book A Hole in the World: Finding Hope in Rituals of Grief and Healing. She has spent the last 15 years in the non-profit and humanitarian aid sectors, and she currently lives in the mountains of Boone, North Carolina with her husband and two young daughters.

[Listen to the podcast using the player above, or read the transcript below. Then check out the links below for more helpful resources.]

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Episode Transcript

4:13 Podcast: Can I Trash Expectations and Still Be Happy? With Amanda Held Opelt [Episode 293]

Amanda Held Opelt: We are people who so often do everything we can to avoid uncomfortable feelings. We are a culture of self-help, of life hacks, of wellness, of self-care, and so we spend so much of our lives thinking we can avoid uncomfortable experiences, difficult emotions. But the reality is -- and I think most people know this in their gut -- we can't avoid it forever. And so my deep and abiding belief is that God can meet us in those difficult emotions. There can be holiness there, there can be learning, there can be beauty there if we make space for those difficult feelings.

Jennifer Rothschild: What does it mean to be blessed? Are Christians automatically entitled to happiness and perfect peace? Wow. Those are some very interesting questions, aren't they? Well, today you are about to get far more than interesting answers. You are about to be enlightened and inspired. On today's episode, author Amanda Held Opelt is going to share her own experience of disappointment and disillusionment when life just did not go the way she expected. She's going to explain also what the emotional prosperity gospel is, how to have the best expectations, and she will give a better path forward, one that reimagines what the blessed life can actually be if we release some of our expectations and seek God in places we never thought to look.

This is some good stuff today, our friends, so let's get going.

K.C. Wright: Welcome to the 4:13 Podcast, where practical encouragement and biblical wisdom set you and I up to live the "I Can" life, because you can do all things through Christ who strengthens you.

Now, welcome your host and my soul sister, Jennifer Rothschild.

Jennifer Rothschild: Hi, our people. We're so glad you're back with us today. This is Jennifer here to help you be and do more than you feel capable of as you're living the "I Can" life. That was K.C. Wright. And you know it's just two friends and one topic and zero stress. And I am so glad that you are listening right now, because you are part of our stress reduction. You are.

I got to tell you what else reduces stress. I don't know if you're this way, K.C. I have a feeling you are. Okay? And I wonder if you are as you're listening. Fragrances de-stress me.

K.C. Wright: Yes.

Jennifer Rothschild: Like, I get it. Those essential oils that say, you know, "destress" or whatever, I rub them on my hands --

K.C. Wright: Oh, yeah.

Jennifer Rothschild: -- and I'm like, oh, yes, it does.

K.C. Wright: Yeah.

Jennifer Rothschild: Okay. So y'all, you know we're in a tiny closet.

K.C. Wright: Very tiny.

Jennifer Rothschild: K.C. comes in this morning. You know, I had already talked to him, we had gotten coffee, et cetera. As soon as I close the door, I'm like, "Oh, you smell good," because we're like -- you know, it's all wafting in here. He smelled so good this morning. And it was very light --

K.C. Wright: Yeah?

Jennifer Rothschild: -- and fragrant.

K.C. Wright: Yeah. It's Dolce & Gabbana Light Blue.

Jennifer Rothschild: Which y'all -- you know this. He's the male version of me. So I was like, "Of course it is," 'cause I have the female version of that. We also share in common -- he likes the Euphoria male version; I like the female version.

K.C. Wright: Well, here's how I get all these colognes.

Jennifer Rothschild: Yeah.

K.C. Wright: I have a 13-year-old, and she loves going to Sephora. And while she's in aisle 4 picking out all these different -- oh, man, she is so girly, and I support that.

Jennifer Rothschild: Yes.

K.C. Wright: I love it.

Jennifer Rothschild: That's right.

K.C. Wright: I encourage all things girly. She wants to smell good, look good, and swipe the card, baby. But I can only sit for so long and then I end up over in the men's section buying all these colognes, which I do not need.

Jennifer Rothschild: But you smell good. No, you do need them. With our proximity, you do need them. So do I. We both need them.

K.C. Wright: But I'm more concerned with my breath in this little room --

Jennifer Rothschild: Oh, yeah, I get ya.

K.C. Wright: -- than my perfume, my cologne.

Jennifer Rothschild: No, that ship has sailed. Because we both drink coffee, and I'm sure we both have coffee breath.

K.C. Wright: And we have Tic Tacs here in the studio.

Jennifer Rothschild: Yes, we do.

K.C. Wright: But anyway, I have to tell you what made me laugh so hard just now. Jennifer takes off her jacket because it's small and stuffy here. And she goes, "Look at my shirt." And I said, "Oh, that's so cute." It says, "Hello. Is it me you're looking for?" You know, it's from her --

Jennifer Rothschild: It's my Lionel Richie.

K.C. Wright: Lionel Richie. And I said, Oh, yeah? Well, you know what? Look at this. I'm wearing a Jeep shirt. And, oh, I just realized I'm wearing a Calvin Klein jacket with my Calvin Klein shorts. And I said, "We are too cute to be on a podcast."

Jennifer Rothschild: That's right. Then we went on about how cute we were. And no one is here to verify that we are lying, because we are lying. There's a reason we're doing podcasts and not TV.

K.C. Wright: That's right.

Jennifer Rothschild: Oh, my goodness. Okay. Anyway, that has nothing to do with anything.

But I'm just going to tell you this. You're about to enjoy a conversation. I was so pleasantly surprised. I didn't know what to expect because I had never met this lady or read her books. And so I just reviewed her book, and Amanda has got it going on. Interesting perspective. Very God-centered. I cannot wait for you to hear this conversation.

K.C. Wright: Amanda Held Opelt is a speaker, songwriter, and author of the book called "A Hole in the World: Finding Hope in Rituals of Grief and Healing." She has spent the last 15 years in the nonprofit and humanitarian aid sectors. She lives in the mountains of Boone, North Carolina, with her husband and two young daughters.

Pull up a chair. We got room at the table for you. Lean in and listen.

Jennifer Rothschild: Amanda, let's start with your title your book. It is called "Holy Unhappiness." And, now, there's some people who just heard that title and they're like, well, yeah, exactly. If I'm holy, I'm not happy. But then there's others who are thinking, well, that's like an oxymoron. So unpack your title for us. What do you mean by holy unhappiness?

Amanda Held Opelt: Sure thing, Jennifer. Well, you know, if you look in Scripture, the word for "holy" usually means set apart for a purpose, set aside, set apart for a sacred purpose. And I think just the case that I am trying to make in my book is that our difficult emotions or our unhappiness, our sadness, can have a sacred purpose in our life. Like, we are people who so often do everything we can to avoid uncomfortable feelings. We are a culture of self-help, of life hacks, of wellness, of self-care, and so we spend so much of our lives thinking we can avoid uncomfortable experiences, difficult emotions. But the reality is -- and I think most people know this in their gut -- we can't avoid it forever. And so my deep and abiding belief is that God can meet us in those difficult emotions. There can be holiness there, there can be learning, there can be beauty there if we make space for those difficult feelings.

Jennifer Rothschild: Okay. So that's a real interesting premise. Because you're right, a lot of times -- Christian or not Christian, it's our gut instinct to avoid unhappiness.

Amanda Held Opelt: Yeah.

Jennifer Rothschild: Because to us, we can think that's symptomatic of something being wrong. Either God's wrong, we're wrong, life is wrong. Something's wrong if we're unhappy. So that's a really interesting point you're making.

And so you also talk about in your book the prosperity gospel. Okay. But you do something that I think is interesting. You nuance the difference between the prosperity gospel and the emotional prosperity gospel, which I think leads to this confusion about holy unhappiness. So explain what the prosperity gospel is and what you're calling the emotional prosperity gospel.

Amanda Held Opelt: Yeah. Well, maybe many of your listeners are like me and they've always rejected the traditional prosperity gospel. And the traditional prosperity gospel says that God doesn't want you to be unhappy. God doesn't want you to be poor, God doesn't want you to be unhealthy; he wants you to be well, he wants you to be rich. And so if you have strong enough faith and can declare a word of faith, a word of confidence in God, you can kind of manifest these blessings in your life and God is going to bless you with abundance, he's going to bless you with healing, he's going to bless you with a happy life.

And I'd always really rejected the prosperity gospel because I believed that suffering was part of life, that there was -- you know, there was some measure of dignity in suffering, that God was going to be with us in our suffering. But what I realized as I entered into my early and mid-30s is that my whole life I had embraced a more subtle spinoff of this prosperity gospel, and that is what I call the emotional prosperity gospel. And it was a belief that, okay, God might not make me healthy and he might not make me wealthy, but he does want to make me happy, meaning he wants to give me joy in my relationships, he wants to give me fulfillment and purpose in my work, meaning in my ministry. He wants my life to be exciting, an exciting adventure for him, building the Kingdom for him. You know, he wanted to give me that sense of deep purpose and joy. And I especially thought, even in my grief -- you know, I knew suffering was part of life, I knew that I would lose things in life that were important to me, but in the midst of that grief he would give me a peace that passes understanding. And so I thought that my right theology and my rigorous commitment to the spiritual disciplines, I thought those things would kind of cushion me against the pain of life.

And then when, you know, relationships were hard and work was difficult or even, dare I say, boring sometimes, ministry got old and I became disillusioned with Kingdom work, and perhaps most profoundly when I walked through a season of grief and grief was still awful, it was still, like, torture, I thought, oh, my goodness, I had some really false expectations of what the life of faith should feel like. And that's where I really began to unpack this idea of all the ways that this emotional prosperity gospel had crept its way into my life.

Jennifer Rothschild: Interesting. It's very nuanced, isn't it? Because it was all the right theology, but it's interesting how we can -- have wrong expectations about the right theology is how I would put it. And you just mentioned that you had a season of grief and that that season kind of led you to question what most people believe about happiness and fulfillment. Would you mind sharing a little bit more about that.

Amanda Held Opelt: Yeah. So about five or six years ago, I just walked through a series of pretty profound losses. My grandmother, who I was very close to, passed away, and I was stuck on a work trip in Congo in East Africa, I couldn't make it back for her funeral. I experienced a season of infertility, which eventually led to three miscarriages. And then probably the most catastrophic loss was the death of my only sibling. My sister, Rachel, died very unexpectedly, and she left behind a three-year-old and an eleven-month-old, and just -- it's impossible to put into words what that loss did to me. It was the atom bomb that went off in my life.

And again, even as it happened, in the very moment of her death I thought, the Lord is with me. He's going to make this emotionally easier for me. That was the expectation I had. This surge of fear, of panic, of anxiety, of grief, I thought the Lord's going to protect me from that somehow. And yet he didn't entirely. I still just to this day feel a profound hole in my heart at the loss of my sister.

And so I think what I began to realize is that I thought that I could somehow prove the resilience of my faith, the strength of my faith in my loss by showing that I was fine, I was just fine. Everything happens for a reason and, you know, faith over fear and the peace that passes understanding, all of these kind of aphorisms that make their way into our bloodstream. I thought that those sentiments could somehow overcome the torturous feeling of grief, and it just didn't.

And so then as I began -- well, I initially thought, well, maybe God's not even real at all, you know. But I tried to stay true to the habits that I'd been given, handed down to me by my faithful parents, and I tried to stay in the Word and stay in prayer, even though it didn't feel like it was helping. And as I read the Bible as a griever, I began to read it very differently. And I saw that actually God is a griever. We see so many examples in Scripture of God crying out in pain. It even says that he cries out like a woman in labor because he's angry, because he's upset, because he's grieved over the loss of his relationship with his children Israel.

We see Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane so devastated at the prospect of the cross that he has what some would call a panic attack, you know, like sweating drops of blood. And what did he cry out on the cross in his moment of death? It wasn't, Oh, everything happens for a reason or fully rely on God. No. It was what? "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?"

And so knowing that there is space even for God to grieve, that one-third of the psalms are psalms of lament, it suddenly gave me permission to be fully sad and to not try to prove my holiness by proving my happiness. That I could actually show my holiness by being sad because I was standing in agreement with God that death is not as it should be. Death is an aberration. Death is something that God doesn't want, that we don't want, so we mourn it, we lament it, we grieve it together. And so that lament suddenly became not an indication of weakness, but an act of worship, an act of showing my faith in a holy good God.

Jennifer Rothschild: Oh, that's so hard and so good, Amanda. And by the way, for our listeners, they do know who your sister is. They may not have realized they know. But Rachel Held Evans was your sister. And that was just such a -- I can only imagine what that was like for you, because I know how it felt for the body of Christ. It was a very sad and sudden, tragic loss. And you're right, it doesn't make sense. Eden had no tombstones. It is counterintuitive to who we are in Christ to have to grieve and mourn death. That was not our original created intent. I appreciate you being so clear about that. That's a really hard thing.

And I appreciate also that you're honest about how we do have these subtle expectations. And so I'm curious, in your opinion why do you think Christians have developed -- well, I'm going to call them high expectations about what life with God should be like, you know. Why are we there? Why have we gotten to that point?

Amanda Held Opelt: Well, I think that Christianity in America has certainly been infected by the culture of, you know, consumeristic -- just American culture, modernity. You know, we are a culture that believes in kind of that upward mobility and always improving, always moving on to brighter horizons, pulling yourself up by your bootstraps. It's a very privileged culture that we live in. If you think about the access we have to medical care, the increased life expectancy, the way that we have medications for pain of mind and of body and all kinds of technologies that make our life easier, I think it's just kind of the intuitive disposition to believe that we can make things better, that we can feel better. That if there's a negative feeling, we can hack it. And so we sometimes leverage our faith to that end, you know, and that's -- you know, in some ways I don't fault us, because I think we're all products of our culture in many ways --

Jennifer Rothschild: Sure.

Amanda Held Opelt: -- but it's just -- I think it's also just understanding that all of us know -- even though we hope for that, we are sold that kind of product of happiness on Instagram and on TV and in bookstores and in massive self-help sections. Even though we're sold this idea that we can be happy, we all know in our gut that that's not how life is. And so, you know, I think it's understandable why we feel this way.

I also think sometimes we want to leverage God for our own end, for a means to our own end. We want to think that God is kind of this vending machine for abundance, whether that's material abundance or, again, maybe more subtly, but perhaps more insidiously, you know, a vending machine for emotional abundance, and I just don't know that that's exactly how God operates.

Now, I do try to be very clear in the book that I do think that the grace of God, the truth of God informs our emotions. I don't think that it means that it takes away all of our negative emotions, but I do think we have this information in the truth of Christ, the hope of redemption, that then eventually molds our emotions and fashions our emotions in such a way that we have hope. Maybe not happiness, but we have hope, and I think there's a real difference there. So it's not that God doesn't have anything to offer us emotionally in the realm of hope, it's just not happiness as defined by 21st century American culture.

Jennifer Rothschild: Yeah. Which makes sense that we should not find our definition of happiness outside the realities of what Scripture is for us. And I was thinking as you were explaining that, you know, I've known several people who are in their younger years than I am, and I can't tell you how many times I've heard, "I just want to be happy. I just want to be happy."

Amanda Held Opelt: Sure.

Jennifer Rothschild: And if work is boring, "I just wanted to be happy, so I quit my job and found a new one," you know. And so I think that is -- it's insidious. I think the culture -- and, of course, we're influenced by the culture. And until we become aware and heighten our radar to become alert to where we're getting our stimuli, our messages, I think it's just easy to fall into it.

And so that leads me to another word that I hear. Okay? "I was so blessed, I got a great parking lot -- parking space." "I was so blessed that, you know, I got this shirt on sale." "I was so blessed." So I'm not saying those aren't blessings -- okay? -- but let's think very broadly here. Okay? I would love to hear, based on now where you're at in this journey, how would you define the term "blessed," and how do you think it has maybe been, you know, misapplied or misconstrued in our Christian culture?

Amanda Held Opelt: Yeah. Oh, my goodness, Jennifer, I'm still on a journey with this one, so much so that I almost was like I need to hold publication of this book until I can articulate this more clearly. Because it's so hard to kind of put your finger on, I think, what true blessing is. Because I do think there's something about being thankful, that every good and perfect gift comes from the Lord, whether that's a good parking space or, you know, whatever the case may be.

But I think we've just maybe confused what it means to be blessed. And the people of Israel had too. If you look at the way the people of Israel thought, they thought, well, Torah obedience will equal blessing for me. And they pictured blessing as, you know, freedom from warfare and material abundance and land and accumulation of things. They also pictured blessing much in the same way that we do. But I think what God said is, no, I want you to walk in my way. I want you to walk in the ways of Torah, walk in my laws so that I can be with you, so that I can be your God and you will be my people, and I will tabernacle among you, is what he says. I want to live with you.

And so I have come to understand blessing more as the abiding presence of God. And what does that presence enable us to do? Because I've already said to you pretty clearly, I don't think that presence always means emotional ease or emotional comfort. But I think the way of God, the presence of God means that we start orienting our life around an ethic, around a character of Christ, meaning we pursue humility, we pursue faithfulness, we pursue gentleness, we pursue love. We keep our promises, we tell the truth, we become people of integrity. And when we make those decisions, emotionally difficult as they may be, they will generally lead to a life of flourishing. They create an environment in our lives that is conducive to flourishing, not just for me -- because we're so individually minded in this culture. But when I think of blessing, I think of something that can be enjoyed by the people around me. When I pursue Christ, it creates an environment that is conducive to flourishing for me and for my neighbor. And that is how I have begun to think of blessing.

I mean, I think -- for example, marriage might be a good example of this. Because marriage makes you really emotionally euphoric in the beginning, right? That feeling of love, the romance. Well, if most people that have been married can testify to year two, three, four, it can get a little bit difficult. It can get a lot difficult, and so much so that you might even say your marriage makes you unhappy. Now, disclaimer, I'm not talking about abusive marriages here --

Jennifer Rothschild: Of course.

Amanda Held Opelt: -- abusive relationships. I'm just talking about deeply uncomfortable relationships.

When I oriented my life around Christ and decided I'm going to be faithful to this promise, faithful to this vow as much as I can, it then led to a long and sometimes difficult road that has created a life of flourishing. Because this relationship has been a steady force for good in my life, we've built a family together, we've built a home, we've built a community together. So again, it's maybe rejecting that kind of initial feeling of, like, I need to just be happy in this moment, I just need things to resolve and me to be emotionally comfortable in this moment, and thinking more kind of long term about blessing. And what do I need to do to create soil, to create an environment, to create a biome that is conducive to flourishing in the long run?

Jennifer Rothschild: Okay, that's good stuff. That really is good. Everything that I have asked you, I feel like what you are presenting is a slight paradigm shift.

And let me just say this. I don't want anyone to feel insulted. And if I said that in any way that would make them feel that way -- you know, if you feel like you're blessed because of a parking spot or that you quit your job because you weren't happy, I don't mean that in an insulting way, I really don't. Because I get it. I live there. I am that person.

Amanda Held Opelt: Yeah, same.

Jennifer Rothschild: I guess what I'm saying is I do feel a degree of -- not discomfort, but an awareness. Is this the right application to what it's all supposed to be like? And so I appreciate when you share, you know, that it's not just about us, that true blessing is going to impact the community, that -- when you're reminding us that the emotion of a situation, that emotion's going to change in five seconds, five minutes, or five years, and so what we do cannot be based upon that. That's just a constant paradigm realignment, and I appreciate that.

Amanda Held Opelt: Yes. And, Jennifer, I think something you pointed out that's so important, I mean, you can study this by just simply looking at the hashtag "blessed" and see what it is that people post. And just like you've pointed, I think, it's so much about something that I personally am enjoying, or it's about an achievement, an accomplishment. You know, a beach body selfie, like a big body transformation or a new house or a new job. And that's what tells me that we are letting culture inform us about what is good. Advancement is good, accolades are good, beauty is good, attention is good. And I'm not saying those things are always bad, but that is absolutely a feature of modernity, a feature of consumerism, a feature of kind of just the way we operate in this modern American culture.

And so that's where I'm trying to say, okay -- and, you know, sometimes we put a Christian spin on this too, like, "I just want to find my calling." And what we mean by that sometimes is I want to find the job that brings me happiness, that brings me fulfillment, that makes me feel important, like I can advance and get promotion after promotion after promotion. And so maybe just being curious about that and saying, is this a blessing because it's advancing my name, it's making me feel good about myself, it's giving me a sense of importance and identity, or is this a blessing because it's serving others, because it's taking delight in the world that God gave me? Like, that to me is maybe the little bit of difference in where I think we can just show a little bit of curiosity as we think about the things that we are calling blessings.

Jennifer Rothschild: "Curiosity" is a good word. Because somebody might be listening and feeling shame right now, and there's no place for that. Some might be feeling a little prickly, like, wait a minute, and that's not appropriate either. We need to have an openness to what the Holy Spirit may be teaching us about himself. So curiosity, we can trust the Holy Spirit to lead us into truth on this.

Amanda Held Opelt: That's right.

Jennifer Rothschild: In your book, Amanda, you explore nine different elements of life that have been tainted by this kind of emotional prosperity gospel philosophy. So I know we don't have time for all nine, but give us a couple.

Amanda Held Opelt: Yeah. Well, I just talk about some of the expectations we have of what something like marriage is going to feel like, something like motherhood. You know, so many women are told over and over again that, you know, biblical womanhood is best embodied in the role of wife and mother. And I kind of explore, well, what does that mean, then, for single people? What did that mean for me when I was experiencing infertility? It was really, really hard. And so maybe trying to kind of reclaim, yes, the dignity in the role of motherhood, but that it is not your identity, it is not your all in all, it is not God's only way for women to walk.

I look at things like community, some of the expectations we have of what it's going to feel like to live in real community with people. And spoiler alert, we think it's going to feel good, feel easy. You know, you find your tribe, you find your posse, your girl squad, the people that just kind of affirm your likes and dislikes and have your same sense of humor. And I kind of try to make the argument that that's kind of an incomplete form of community, that real community is when you live with and form bonds and bridges with people that are maybe different than you that can offer perspective and really challenge you. Real community is going to challenge you in your walk with the Lord, not just affirm everything that you think and believe.

And so these are some of the things that I explore, just -- you know, what I've tried to do is I've tried to do just what you said, Jennifer, is, like -- I think of all the things I've ever seen on social media where people said #blessed, whether it's the job or the friend group or the church. I have a whole chapter on the church. And I just kind of investigate and, like you said, show some curiosity about some of the expectations we have of what those things are going to make us feel like and some of the disappointments I experienced and how I dealt with those disappointments.

Jennifer Rothschild: That's so good. And, you know, when I hear you talk about that too, I can't help but see the picture of John saying that prayer, Lord, that you would increase and that I would decrease.

Amanda Held Opelt: Yeah.

Jennifer Rothschild: Because we really are -- self cannot satisfy self. Only Christ truly satisfies us. And when we're so full of us and our expectations, we're fueling our own, quote/unquote, unhappiness. So I appreciate -- wow, I'm really -- I'm eager to read the rest of your book, I really am. But we're going to get to our last question, Amanda. And I just can't wait for our 4:13ers to check out your book. I can just tell it's going to be a very comforting challenge.

All right, so here's our last question. All right, so we've heard all this, and some might be feeling convicted, some might be feeling curious, some might just -- you know, whatever. We want to explore this. So how would you suggest that we begin to think differently about these different areas of lives and just release some of our expectations so that we can seek God in new ways?

Amanda Held Opelt: You know, I think that if -- I want people to walk away with one thing after reading my book. It's that your emotional difficulty, your difficult experiences, they don't make you a failure. I think we live in a culture where sadness feels a lot like failure in a Christian culture where sadness can feel like a spiritual failure. And that's because we've kind of bought into this belief that we can control our outcomes. You know, if we just make all the right decisions and believe all the right things and tick all the boxes, we can create for ourselves a customized happy life. And if we believe all the right things theologically, then we can somehow erase the impacts of the fall in our emotional lives. And I just don't believe that.

I believe it is hazardous to live in a world suffering with the impacts of the fall, with the brokenness of the fall. I think it's going to be emotionally difficult, I think it's going to be experientially difficult. And so if you're really feeling that difficulty right now, there's nothing wrong with you. You're normal. Restlessness is part of what it means to have eternity set in our hearts and yet living in these mortal bodies. And so I think it's just the normalization of pain, the incorporation of lament as a form of actual worship on par with celebration. You know, I believe it can be that same intimate experience with God, both to celebrate him and to lament what's hurting in your life.

And I also think that I want people to know, I actually do believe God wants to bless us, I think he wants us to be happy, but I think we need to re-imagine what that blessing can look like. And I write about three blessings in my book that kind of have sustained me through this season of changing how I think about blessing. I write about delight and delighting in the free gifts of God's goodness in the world. I talk about humility, knowing who you are, knowing your place in the world, that you are a divine image bearer, but you're still human, you still make mistakes, you still experience hardship.

And then I write about hope, which I think is very different than happiness. Hope is this sturdy form of resilient -- I don't want to say optimism, but a looking towards the future of the redemption to come, of the new creation to come. And that's a lot different than happiness, which kind of comes and goes with the seasons and as the journey twist and turns. So I hope people know I think there is blessing to be found in the life of Christ, it just maybe looks a little bit different than we've come to expect it to be.

Jennifer Rothschild: I just love how she explained that God does want you to be happy. So reimagine it. Use his definition of happiness. Remember those three blessings that she mentioned. I'll just repeat them. Delight, humility, and hope.

K.C. Wright: This was so good. And it always is. And I like that she said that your emotional difficulties don't make you a failure. Sadness is not a failure. You can't control all the outcomes. It's a myth.

Jennifer Rothschild: It is.

K.C. Wright: If you believe all the right things, then things won't go wrong. That's just a myth.

Jennifer Rothschild: Right, it is such a myth. It's interesting. We should expect emotional difficulty. I mean, we should expect to experience, you know, just difficult things in general.

Anyway, I like that she said basically -- this is my summary -- restless is how you should feel. Because if you've got eternity in your heart, you're never going to feel totally satisfied. And I think that's such a powerful paradigm for us to continually readjust to.

K.C. Wright: So true. So I'm convinced I need to read her book, and I'm convinced you may need to read it as well.

Jennifer Rothschild: Yep.

K.C. Wright: So we'll have a link to her book, plus a transcript of this conversation at the Show Notes right now at Let's give a shoutout to the team that makes the Show Notes possible.

Jennifer Rothschild: Yes. Thank you, Jackie, Jill.

K.C. Wright: What a resource.

Jennifer Rothschild: I'm telling you.

K.C. Wright: What a resource. It's amazing.

All right. Until next week, trust God. Talk to your people. Don't freak out about your emotions that are hard. Reimagine happiness. I love that. And you can do all these things because you can do all things through Christ who gives you supernatural strength. I can.

Jennifer Rothschild: I can.

Jennifer and K.C.: And you can.

Jennifer Rothschild: All right, K.C., I think we do need a Tic Tac now.

K.C. Wright: Truly. I'm glad this isn't scratch and sniff podcast. I've had about two cups this morning of coffee that would singe your nose hairs.


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