Just finished wrestling with malaria once again, and once again I came out on top. This last bout (John and Karen seem to be immune) left me wondering if continuing to put myself in harm’s way is worth it. Over the last twelve years here in Africa, I have suffered more and endured more pain than in my previous sixty years put together. Yet . . . I have also never experienced as much joy or felt as content at doing what God has called me to do than the previous sixty years put together as well. In the throes of malaria, you can begin to question whether or not it is worth it to fight and to continue living. When there is no joy or bliss you have left to anticipate, it is easy to think about ending it all. It’s at those moments that God reminds me that He never promised happiness and bliss. He just called me to follow Him and to serve others at His bidding. Jesus did not say, “Pack up your troubles,” He said, “Pick up your cross.” Victor Frankl, the concentration camp survivor writes in his book, “Man’s Search for Meaning” that it is not about what we expect from God but rather what God expects from us. He says, “Life ultimately means taking the responsibility to find the right answer to its problems and to fulfill the tasks which God constantly sets for each individual.” All too often, we all fall into the “where is my happiness?” trap. I hear and read about people who destroy relationships because they say they deserve to be happy. I don’t know who “deserves” happiness. I do know that I lived that way (searching for my happiness) for a long time and never found true happiness. I think that once again Victor Frankl had the key when he wrote that if we know the “why” of our existence, we will be able to bear almost any “how.” Jesus certainly never promised any of His disciples a rosy future when He called them, yet they came. I’ve said and written before that when I die, I want my taxi-cab like “In Service” light to be burning brightly even if the taxi it’s on is in pretty bad shape. No one remembers the circumstances of your death as well as they remember the circumstances of your life. The legacy you leave is not the one of the smiling, happy fellow, but of those others whose lives you’ve touched in countless ways and whose lives became better because you were a small part of them.
At the end of the movie “Schindler’s List,” Oskar Schindler is not happy but sorry he didn’t help more people. He will be remembered and spoken of in warm terms in family gatherings for decades to come—not for how happy he was, but for how he helped others. Someone once told me he wanted his children to be happy, but I always thought, “What if they are guards in a concentration camp? Would he want them to be happy then?” I think what I want for my children is for them to feel that they have left the world a better place than they found it, and I hope that that is what makes them happy. Ultimately, my happiness lies in my obedience and availability to the God who called me to equatorial Africa and not in those things of this world that used to make me happy. The happiness of this world is very fleeting and can often inflict pain on others. The happiness of God's world comes from helping others to a better life. It's not about me, it's not about you, it's about others. If you choose to serve others, you will never be alone. God begins where you and me end and that's where it becomes a wonderful world.