5 Words that Turn Your Hardship into Happiness

I was fascinated by a chapter titled “Perfect Happiness” or “Ultimate Joy” in the Book of Zhuangzi, my favorite philosopher of the 4th century BCE. Zhuangzi was a hilarious sage, and, like Jesus, he used parables and fables to explain the metaphysical reality and spiritual truth.

Zhuangzi sang at his wife’s funeral, which was entirely inappropriate in ancient Chinese culture. People expected the husband to weep and mourn to show his love for her. He was sad for a moment at her departure, but he decided to celebrate her return to the Creator.

Saint Augustine said there were Christians before Christ. Zhuangzi is one of those people. He was way ahead of his time. His happiness is infectious. So, when I saw that he wrote about “Perfect Happiness” or “Ultimate Joy,” I couldn’t resist reading it.

Here’s a provocative parable in that chapter on “Perfect Happiness.”

After a long day of tiresome journey through the wilderness on his way to a neighboring state, Zhuangzi decided to take a break. Sitting down, he saw a skull on the roadside in the wilderness. Being alone and bored, he picked up the skull and talked to it.

“Hey, who are you? Do you have a name? Why are you sitting here in the middle of nowhere? Did a wild beast attack you? Were you punished for a crime, dishonoring your parents? Did someone rob you? Did you die of famine and hunger? Did the tragedy of a war kill you? Or did you die of old age? How did you die, poor man?”

As the sun set, he decided to sleep right there, laying his head on the skull like a pillow. That night, the skull talked to him in a dream.

“Sir, you talked to me like a man entangled in the hardship of life. After death, I no longer have any of those concerns. I don’t have a human boss above me nor a servant under me. There is no winter or snowstorm, no war or famine. Every day is like spring and autumn all year round. No human king in the world is as happy as me.”

Surprised, Zhuangzi asked him, “If I had a supernatural power to restore your flesh and body, return you to a human, and bring you back to your friends and family, wouldn’t you wish me to do so?”

To his astonishment, the skull said, “What? Do you want me to leave this joyful eternal life richer than any human king and return to human life to suffer the hardship of the fallen world again? No way!” (End of the Story).

What surprised me is that the chapter mainly talks about death. What does death have to do with perfect happiness or ultimate joy? The truth is death significantly affects our ability to enjoy life. Paul said,

“The last enemy to be destroyed is death.” (1 Co 15:26).

Fear of death disturbs our ability to experience the fullness of joy. Jesus came to destroy death, setting us free from the fear of death by giving us eternal life. Zhuangzi teaches us that humans are not ready to live until they are ready to die.

Children have perfect happiness because they don’t have the concept of death. For them, a hundred years feel like an eternity. Jesus guarantees us eternal life so we can return to a carefree childhood and enjoy the ultimate happiness.

Today, we will learn five steps to turn from hardship to happiness based on what Jesus teaches in this week’s scripture lesson. Let’s resolve our suffering once and for all so that we can enjoy life to the fullest because that’s what Jesus said he came to give us. Let’s begin!

[Hi, in case we haven’t met yet, I am Sam Stone, the Lightkeeper—you are the light of the world, and I am the keeper! (No pun intended). It’s my calling to help you shine your brightest so that God is glorified in you and you are satisfied in God.]

The Scripture lesson for today, the Fourth Sunday in Lent, is from the Gospel According to John 3:14-21. [Listen to the Word of the Lord!]

And just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, 15 that whoever believes in him may have eternal life.

16 “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.

17 “Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. 18 Those who believe in him are not condemned; but those who do not believe are condemned already, because they have not believed in the name of the only Son of God.

19 And this is the judgment, that the light has come into the world, and people loved darkness rather than light because their deeds were evil. 20 For all who do evil hate the light and do not come to the light, so that their deeds may not be exposed. 21 But those who do what is true come to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that their deeds have been done in God.” (Jn 3:14–21).

[Blessed are those who delight in God’s word. Thanks be to God!]

This passage includes the most popular verse in the Bible, John 3:16, known as the Gospel in a nutshell. It reveals the divine solution to human suffering.

For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.” (John 3:16)

What’s special about this verse is that it contains five keywords that can turn human hardship into perfect happiness. The first keyword is,

1. God

The first keyword is God. Most human suffering comes from focusing on the wrong thing—ourselves. Most people wake up thinking about, “How about me?” What will I eat, what will I wear, what will I do, or what will I get? “I, I, I, I; me, me, me, me.” That’s the formula for hardship because humans are vulnerable creatures in this fallen world.

Without God, we are like sheep without a shepherd. That’s why Jesus came to be our Good Shepherd. So, as soon as we wake up, we first need to recognize that “life is not about me, but about God.” As Paul said,

“For ‘In him we live and move and have our being’; as even some of your own poets have said, ‘For we too are his offspring.’ (Ac 17:28).

A little fish asks his mother fish, “Mom, where is this thing called ‘Water’ that everyone is talking about?” The mother fish says, “Water is everywhere! It’s all around you and in you.”

The little fish says, “Mom, why don’t I see it?” The mother fish replies, “You can’t see it, but you can observe its presence because we live and move and have our being in Water. We can’t survive or live peacefully or joyfully without Water.”

Jesus said God, the Holy Spirit, is like the wind that we can’t see and don’t know where it comes from and where it goes, but we know it’s there by observation. In fact, we live by breathing the air. Without it, we can’t survive.

So, the first step from hardship to happiness is to realize you are not alone. As Elder George Krysler says, “Every morning I wake up, I know God is there!” After living four scores and then, every day is a miracle. If you realize life is not about me but about God, it will change your attitude.

2. Love

“God so loved the world …”

The second keyword from this verse is “love.” It says, “God so loved the world.” Even though this is a fallen world, God still loves it because it’s His creation, after all. The Bible says God is love. The world was created as God’s object of love. Even before the creation, God was determined to love this world, even if his creation betrayed him.

The saving grace of Jesus Christ was not an afterthought. God has planned it from the beginning of time because he so loved the world.

Some people told me, “I don’t believe a loving God can send people to hell.” It is a misunderstanding. God doesn’t have to send us to hell because we are already heading there without him. Verse 18 says,

Those who believe in him are not condemned; but those who do not believe are condemned already, because they have not believed in the name of the only Son of God.” (v. 18)

The keyword here is “already.” We are already swimming in the sea of suffering. A former elder who had suffered a great deal in her life told me, “I don’t think there is a hell worse than this world.” I think it’s true. The hardship of life makes us think God hates us. But Jesus came to show us that God loves us so much that he even gave his Son to us.

Love is also the secret to experiencing God’s presence. That’s why Jesus taught us the Great Commandment: love God and people. John says,

Everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, for God is love.” (1 John 4:7b-8).

Since God is love, where there is love, there is God. So, when you can’t find God, look for where there’s love or think about whom you love. Then, you sense God’s presence. So, the second step from hardship to happiness is remembering God’s love and giving someone your love. That leads to the third step.

3. Give

“God so loved the world that he gave his only Son …”

The next keyword is “give.” God is a giver. God gave us life and this good green earth to enjoy his love. When we became selfish, betrayed him, and sank into the sea of suffering, God gave us His Son to redeem us from suffering. Verse 17 says,

Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.” (v. 17).

It says clearly that Jesus didn’t come to condemn us but to save us because we are already condemned. That’s the reality. God knows our plight, and he gave his Son to save us because he loves us. That is huge because what more can God give beyond His precious Son? Paul said,

“If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not withhold his own Son, but gave him up for all of us, will he not with him also give us everything else?” (Ro 8:31b-32).

Jesus is God’s everything, just as Isaac was Abraham’s everything. What more can you get from God? When you realize God has your back, you turn hardship into happiness.

Just as you love to feel God’s love, you give to feel God’s gift. When you are in hardship, give something away sacrificially to someone in need. I know it’s challenging, especially when you are in a rut, but you will see miracles happen when you do that. God is a giver, so you touch God’s heart when you give. You live the life of God’s child when you give. When you give, you turn your hardship into happiness.

4. Believe

“God so loved the world that he gave his only Son so that everyone who believes in him …”

The next keyword is “believe.” To believe is both easy and hard. It’s easy because all you need is to trust. However, we live in a harsh world, learning nothing comes free. We think we must strive to earn anything worthwhile. We became cynical. When God asks us just to “believe” to get a ticket to heaven, it sounds too good to be true. That’s why it’s hard to believe.

We want to do something to earn it. The truth is we don’t have to earn our salvation, and we can’t afford to do so. If we want to pay for it, pay it forward. For our salvation, we only have to believe in His Son.

The truth is everything begins with believing. You get on an airplane because you believe it will take you to your destination, you believe the pilots have the skill to fly the aircraft, and you believe the aircraft meets all the requirements to fly safely.

In the context of the entire Bible, believing in him means to believe that Jesus is God in human form—God in flesh. John said,

No one has ever seen God. It is God the only Son, who is close to the Father’s heart, who has made him known.” (John 1:18).

By believing in him, we get to know God. By believing in him, we discover God is love. By believing in him, we discover God is a giver and that He has our back, and by believing in him, we turn hardship into happiness. Don’t doubt, but believe. It’s simple!

Lastly and most importantly:

5. Eternal Life

“God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.” (John 3:16).

One of the reasons children are happy is because they think they will live forever. For them, a hundred years on this earth is like an eternity. Jesus wants us to be like children because having an eternal perspective on life is vital to maintaining happiness.

As we grow older, we realize life is short. When you are 50, you discover that half a century has passed by in a blink of an eye. Anxiety begins to build in our minds covertly or overtly. Happiness becomes distant.

The Bible reveals we are created to live for eternity. Death came to us because of sin. Jesus came to restore our eternal life by washing away our sins through his sacrifice on the cross. All he requires from us is to believe in him.

By believing, you can experience eternal life right now because eternity is from the infinite past to the infinite future. Jesus calls it the kingdom of God. When Jesus talked about the kingdom of God, he used the present tense, not the future tense. It means we can experience the kingdom of God right here, right now. He said,

“Strive first for the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” (Mt 6:33).

The context shows that “all these things” are those we worry about daily that drive us to hardship and vanity. So, we can end suffering right now by seeking the kingdom first. What is the kingdom of God? Paul said,

For the kingdom of God is not food and drink but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.” (Ro 14:17).

In other words, the kingdom of God is being in the Holy Spirit. So, to seek the kingdom of God is to bear the fruit of the Spirit. Paul said,

By contrast, the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against such things.” (Gal 5:22-23).

Let’s live our eternal life by bearing the fruit of the Spirit that enables us to surf the sea of suffering with a smile.

There you have it, the five words that turn us from hardship to happiness:

  1. God
  2. Love
  3. Give
  4. Believe
  5. Eternal Life

That’s it for today. I hope you find this message illuminating as much as I enjoy receiving it from the Head Office. Until we meet again, keep your light shining brighter and broader, and harvest the fruit of profound freedom, purpose, and happiness.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *